The Big Yell: 5 UT Traditions Freshmen Should Know

Big Yell2

The Texas fight song, Wabash Cannonball, Smokey the Cannon—UT’s Class of 2017 learned it all at the second annual Big Yell! and Texas Football Town Hall, a rowdy rundown of the University’s most beloved traditions, songs, and cheers.

Nearly 4,000 bright-eyed freshmen crowded into DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium this week for the annual pep rally, held on the first day of the fall semester and sponsored by Texas Exes’ Student Leadership Committee. Broadcasted live by the Longhorn Network, the event featured performances by the Longhorn Band, the Pom Squad, and Texas Cheer, plus a surprise appearance by UT president Bill Powers and a Town Hall Q&A with none other than Coach Mack Brown himself.

Texas Exes CEO and Executive Director Leslie Cedar also took to the stage to welcome the eager new Longhorns to campus. “The University of Texas has the greatest traditions around,” Cedar said to the crowd, “and one of the jobs of your alumni association is to keep those traditions alive and well.”

Here’s a look at our top five all-time favorite UT traditions that the Class of 2017 learned at this year’s Big Yell. Don’t see your favorite tradition, cheer, or song on our list? Share it with us in the comment section below!

Also, check out the first-ever official freshmen class photo, taken on the field of DKR following the Big Yell, here.


1. Bevo

UT’s beloved steer was first introduced on the Forty Acres on Thanksgiving Day of 1916. Texas Ex Stephen Pinckney, LLB ’11, who had been on the hunt for a live mascot for the University, settled on a Longhorn thanks to its orange and white hide. After collecting $1 from 124 fellow UT alumni, Pinckney purchased a steer and formally presented it to students during the annual UT-A&M Thanksgiving rivalry game. Contrary to the tall tale circulated by Aggies, Bevo did not, in fact, receive his name from an A&M branding prank. In the December 1916 issue of the Alcalde, editor Ben Dyer, BA 1910, recounted the day’s events and proclaimed, “His name is Bevo. Long may he reign!” And he’s been a gameday staple ever since.

Eyes of Texas

2. The Eyes of Texas

Singing “The Eyes of Texas” in unison with 100,000+ other Longhorns in the stadium may be one of the most memorable and touching moments of a UT student’s time on campus. Set to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” UT’s school song was written in March of 1903 by students Lewis Johnson and John Lang Sinclair. Originally a joke about then-president William Prather, “The Eyes of Texas” was first performed at a Varsity Minstrel Show in the Hancock Opera House on West Sixth Street—to much laughter and applause. In his commencement speech less than a month later, Prather had the last laugh, turning the prank back on them by concluding with, “And now, young ladies and gentlemen, in the words of your own poet, remember that the eyes of Texas are upon you.”

These days, Longhorns everywhere sing the tune with their horns in the air, held completely still until that last, powerful line. The document featuring the original lyrics to “The Eyes of Texas” is now housed at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.


3. The World’s Largest Texas Flag

UT’s Alpha Phi Omega chapter has been running the gigantic Texas flag at UT football games and campus events since the Thanksgiving game against A&M game in 1962. Now the owner of the world’s three largest Texas flags, APO received the original flag after it was gifted to Texas Gov. Price Daniel at the 1962 Cotton Bowl as a sign of Southern hospitality from the state of Mississippi. That original flag measured 51 feet by 90 feet. Today, APO and the world’s largest Texas flag can be seen at the stadium on gamedays and hung from the President’s Balcony of the Tower during rallies like the OU Torchlight Parade.

Longhorn Band

4. The Longhorn Band

It just wouldn’t be gameday if the Longhorn Band—known as the “Showband of the Southwest”—didn’t spell out ‘Texas’ on the field during halftime. One of UT’s most cherished traditions, the Longhorn Band was created in 1900, years before the Texas team was even called the Longhorns. In response to a dismal turnout at the annual UT-A&M holiday match-up, University leaders formed a 16-member band to drum up excitement at games. Another gameday staple, Big Bertha, was introduced in 1955. The largest bass drum in the world, Big Bertha leads the hundreds of members of the Longhorn Band onto the field each game, and booms loudly whenever the ‘Horns score. The band’s renditions of “The Eyes of Texas,” “Texas Fight,” and “March Grandioso,” are a must-have at many UT events across campus.

Hook em

5. The Hook ’em Horns Hand Sign

Ah, the Hook ’em Horns hand sign—toss it up wherever you are across the globe (okay, maybe not Italy!), and you’re destined to find another Longhorn in your midst. In 1955, student Henry “HK” Pitts suggested the hand sign to UT’s head cheerleader Harley Clark, who in turn presented it to the student body at a pep rally before the upcoming football game against TCU.

At the time, the Aggies had already created their “Gig ’em” thumbs-up sign, and UT fans wanted something of their own. Dean Arno Nowotny, caught off-guard by Clark’s surprise demonstration, was furious. The signal hadn’t been approved by University administration. But what’s done was done, and the next day the stadium was filled with horns-touting fans. Head coach Mack Brown claims the Hook ’em Horns hand sign as his favorite UT tradition, so it’s only right it makes our list.

Bevo photo from the Texas Exes archive. APO Flag photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr Creative Commons. All other photos by Jim Sigmon, courtesy UT Athletics.


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