AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas coach Steve Sarkisian apologized Monday for not staying on the field to sing “The Eyes of Texas” after the Longhorns’ loss to Oklahoma State and promised it would “never happen again.”

Controversy surrounding the postgame tradition erupted in 2020 when some players objected to singing it because of racist elements in its past. The Texas chapter of the NAACP even filed a civil rights complaint over its continued use.

Sarkisian had promised on the day he was hired in 2021 that his team would sing the song and the issue seemed to die down. But after Texas lost 41-34 last weekend, the coach and many of his players went straight to the locker room without staying on the field to sing as is team tradition.

The move drew attention on social media and Sarkisian opened his Monday press conference with an apology.

“I own an apology to Longhorn Nation. I made a mistake at the end of the game in not singing ‘The Eyes of Texas’ when the game was done,” he said. “That was not anything that was intentional. That was not anything that had to do with our players. I think our players just followed me up the ramp into the locker room.”

Sarkisian said he was upset with the way the game ended.

“That will never happen again,” Sarkisian said of the song omission. “Again, it was not intentional.”

“The Eyes of Texas” was written in 1903 and has a history of performances in minstrel shows with musicians often in blackface. For decades, it has been sung after games and graduation ceremonies, and is a popular singalong at weddings and even funerals.

In 2020, a group of athletes and students called for the school to drop the song amid racial injustice protests after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The school said athletes would not be required to sing it, although the main Longhorn bands would keep playing it.

School President Jay Hartzell, with the full backing of the university’s Board of Regents, said the song would stay and a school research panel determined there was “no racist intent“ behind it.

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