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Universities Rethink Fight Songs to Ban Lyrics

SALT LAKE CITY ― The University of Utah is seeking input on updating its fight song, “I’m a Utah Man.”

Some say the lyrics, which include phrases like “our coeds are the fairest,” are sexist, while others want to stick with tradition.

University of Utah President David Pershing has asked the Office of Student Affairs to form a committee that will weigh changes to the song, “Utah Man,” after student government leaders and a faculty body passed resolutions urging the changes.

The debate is not limited to the University of Utah.

Universities, students and alumni across the country have wrestled with new views and attitudes vs. sentiment and tradition. Some have led to change, while others have stayed the same.

The University of Mississippi

The school in 2009 trimmed one of its fight songs to discourage football fans from chanting “the South will rise again” after critics said it was an offensive reminder of the region’s intolerant past. But some fans continued chanting at the end of the song, “From Dixie With Love,” during Ole Miss band performances of the medley before and after games.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa

In 2007, the university revised the last line of its fight song—played at each athletic events—to acknowledge women athletes, the U.S. Fed News reported that year. Officials and student leaders changed a line from “Here’s to each valiant son” to “Here’s to each valiant one.”

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

In 2006, Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant switched its mascot from Savages to Savage Storm to comply with NCAA rules against “hostile and abusive” nicknames and symbols. The university said the Savage Storm mascot referred to the region’s fierce storms. The school introduced a new fight song after previously changing the lyrics “savage land” to “noble land.”

University of New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire in 2006 stopped playing the song “Black Betty,” by the band Ram Jam before hockey games. The school had been using the song to rally fans for about a decade, despite the NAACP’s 30-year-old stance that the song was offensive to Black women. The school’s athletic director banned it after receiving complaints and urging from a student group.

New Mexico State University

In 2003, some alumni at New Mexico State University lobbied for the school to rethink boozy references in its fight song that includes the line, “And when we win this game we’ll buy a keg of booze and drink it to the Aggies ‘til we wobble in our shoes.” The critics chanted a revised version of the song at a football game, but other fans booed, causing them to drop the effort for change.

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