The University of Texas at Austin
  • Students and alumni participate in first Big Yell

    By Jim Nicar
    Jim Nicar
    Published: Nov. 1, 2007

    Before Bevo, before Texas teams were known as “Longhorns,” before orange and white were named the official university colors, what did UT students yell?

    On Oct. 23, the Texas Exes UT Heritage Society and the Spirit and Traditions Council hosted the Big Yell at the Alumni Center. More than 225 alumni and students arrived for a pre-Yell pizza party, consuming a staggering 75 pizzas, then gathered to rehearse and record a series of old University of Texas yells from the 1890s through the 1910s that haven’t been heard on the campus in more than 80 years.

    Along the way, the group discovered some university history, shared fun university facts, won door prizes and heard from Harley Clark, the former head cheerleader who introduced the “Hook ‘em Horns” hand sign at a 1955 football rally in Gregory Gym.

    Along with free pizza and soft drinks, participants received “Texas Fans Make Us Proud” T-shirts, a set of four unused UT postcards from the 1930s and a yell book styled after similar pamphlets provided to students in the 1900s.

    The assembly learned about campus life in the 1890s, when classes were held Monday through Saturday and professors sent monthly attendance reports to parents. The origins of the first yell, called the “Varsity Yell,” were discussed, along with the trials of early university athletics, football rallies in the Old Main Building (when only the men were allowed to yell), the controversy in selecting orange and white as the university’s colors and the original Clark Field stadium, constructed in 1907 by students in just 10 days.

    In the 1900s, before there was a student union or daily newspaper, the center for campus communication was in the four-story rotunda of the Old Main Building. Handbills, called “dodgers,” were printed to announce concerts, lectures or football rallies, taken to the top of the rotunda and tossed to the crowd.

    Before the Big Yell began, Heritage Society member Will Koenig hid in the skylight of the Connally Banquet Hall, and on cue, dropped reproductions of the handbills. After a century, the dodgers fell into students’ hands once again.

    Clark, now a retired federal court judge, recounted his time as head cheerleader in 1955 and explained how he introduced the “Hook ‘em Horns” hand sign at a pep rally in Gregory Gym. The Big Yell concluded with university cheerleaders leading the crowd in singing “The Eyes of Texas.”

    Recordings of the yells and photos of the event can be found here: http://www.texasexes.org/heritage/bigyell.asp.

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