In 1995, the Texas Cowboys were banned from campus for five years after the death of pledge Gabe Higgins. Following this suspension, the Cowboys passed their tradition of firing “Smokey the Cannon” at home games along to the Texas Silver Spurs.
After another hazing investigation last year, the Cowboys are facing suspension once again. In the event they are banned, UT should consider passing the Smokey tradition on to a broader group of students.
The Silver Spurs are an honorary service organization, but like the Cowboys, they are a men’s group. While groups like the Silver Spurs deserve recognition, UT could make the Smokey tradition more inclusive by featuring different groups at each game. If UT based its decision on student nominations, women’s groups and organizations that include all genders would have a chance to share their accomplishments in front of massive crowds.
Longhorn fans feel a strong emotional attachment to Smokey, which gives students behind the cannon a great deal of visibility.
“Smokey the Cannon is a very integral part of the game day experience,” said Brian Davis, an Austin American-Statesman staff writer. “When you’re talking about firing that thing at touchdowns and at the final score, that’s a big part of what everyone thinks of when they think of game day.”
Davis recently tweeted in support of replacing the Cowboys with a women’s group. Other Twitter users fiercely backed this idea, suggesting honorary groups such as the Orange Jackets.
Members of the Texas Orange Jackets, a women’s service group, believe increasing representation of women on the field is an important cause.
“I have never been in an organization with as much passion for serving others as Orange Jackets,” said biology senior Isabella Stork. In the past month alone, members have won prestigious scholarships, landed groundbreaking record deals and given TED talks.
With such an impressive record of accomplishments, it seems obvious to give groups such as the Orange Jackets a fair shot at taking part in this beloved tradition.
Davis referenced the Seattle Seahawks’ 12th man tradition. Each game, a different person waves a flag to the crowd.
“Why can’t Texas have McConaughey, ROTC people, people who have overcome a lot of tough things in their life — why can’t those people fire it off?” Davis said. “Then you show them on the jumbotron, and everyone gets excited.”
In this new system, students could nominate groups they felt deserved recognition to fire the cannon at a single game.
Smokey is featured in all six home games plus OU, which would allow seven different groups to celebrate their achievements each season. Since football games have such a large audience, groups whose hard work often goes unnoticed would have a chance to garner student appreciation.
By using Smokey to honor student achievements, UT would encourage student involvement in the game day experience. Getting students to come out and celebrate their accomplishments could combat declining attendance at football games. While not all students are interested in football, they would be more likely to attend a game if they could use it as an opportunity to showcase their hard work.
While Smokey’s future is up in the air, UT should consider passing the tradition on to a wider group of students. This beloved component of game day would be the perfect time to honor the hard work of the many ambitious student groups on campus.
Waltz is a radio-television-film senior from Dripping Springs.