Everything, as they say, is bigger in Texas.
Especially tendencies toward over-sensitivity.
For decades, Texas Longhorns fans have given as good as they have gotten on the gridiron, court or baseball field. They would wear “Beat Arkansas” or “Beat Oklahoma” lapels just as often as fans of the Razorbacks or Sooners would flash the “horns down” sign right back at them.
Because, after all, the inverted hook ’em horns gesture with a downward thumb and pinky means the exact same thing as words “Beat Texas.” That’s all it has meant since the first known “Horns down” gesture in 1963. At no point has it meant anything derogatory. There’s no way the University of Arkansas athletic department would include the phrase on its website if it did.
While it’s no slur, the “Horns down” sign can be used as a taunt, so in the last few years it’s been filed under “unsportsmanlike conduct penalties” if used by athletes during Big 12 games.
Fortunately, this didn’t apply to Brandon Allen flashing one off after a 31-7 bowl win over Texas or Jalen Battles doing his thing.
It also didn”t apply to Arkansas football coaches sneak taunting Texas coaches:
The sensitivity has gone into overdrive in the last few weeks, however.
First, there were the UCF basketball players in Austin who gathered in a circle near their bench area and celebrated their team’s 15-point comeback at Texas by performing the gesture.
“When you do those kinds of things, it looks very classless and it also looks like you were just hoping to win,” Texas basketball coach Rodney Terry later said in his postgame news conference. “We never go into games trying to hope to win. We go into games expecting to win. So we don’t act like that. We expect to win. We don’t jump up and down and act like we won the national championship…. we’re not going to let you act that way in our building. You’re not going to put your horns down and do all that nonsense.”
Terry later apologized for being ridiculously sensitive here, but there’s no question if he feels this way, so do a lot of other Longhorns. The SEC will be a very harsh wake-up call for these folks, as this Houston Nutt-referencing post indicates:
But it’s not time to be thrown to the wolves quite yet. Texas still gets to enjoy some coddling in its current environs. BYU students found this out last weekend when a group of them wore T-shirts that spelled out the phrase at Texas-BYU basketball game. The BYU basketball fans were asked to remove their shirts after the first media timeout because the Big 12 has a hard time getting behind the idea of letting students have good, clean fun that hurts nobody.
In both recent controversial games, Texas lost. Their coach might have done better if he had simply tuned out the outside and focused on the task at hand.
Woe to the Longhorns who think these last two incidents are going to help make the school’s transition to the SEC starting this summer any easier. You can expect the heckling and Horns Downing to come in and hot and heavy in every road game, and especially so when the Longhorns take the field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on November 16.
That is something the Arkansas football PA announcer Jon Williams made clear when he plunged right into the “Horns down” fray with this golden oldie from the 2021 Arkansas vs Texas game:
Just like in the Big 12, opponents won’t be able to flash the sign to taunt Longhorns directly without incurring a penalty. But don’t expect anybody to tell fans wearing “Horns down” shirts at SEC football games to remove them. They will be laughed right out of Death Valley, or Vaught-Hemingway or Razorback Stadium for that matter.
“Why is this the only gesture in intercollegiate athletics that we’re so worried about?,” asked college football analyst Joel Klatt in the below video. “There are a lot of hand gestures that get made on the football field, on the basketball court that are a lot worse than horns down – a lot worse, don’t Google them if you know what I mean.”
Hear Mike Irwin chime in on “all this crybaby stuff” at 33:30: