By Jennifer Dobner
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - University of Utah football fans will be singing different words to their century-old fight song this autumn after the school changed the lyrics to be more inclusive of women and minorities, officials said on Wednesday.
Student body officers had expressed concerns over the "I am a Utah man" song, written in 1904 by a former football coach, saying some of its lyrics could be seen as sexist or racist.
The line: "Our coeds are the fairest" will be replaced by "our students are the finest," and "no other gang of college men" is being changed to "no rival band of college fans."
Throughout the four-verse anthem, students will have a choice of using the word "fan" or "man," according to the university. In an earlier statement, the university had said "fan" would replace "man."
The changes came after a task force was set up earlier this year by the university's president, David Pershing, to seek public input.
"When printed officially by the university, this 2014 version of the fight song will be used, but historical renditions of the song will always be acceptable," Pershing said in a statement. "We encourage you to sing — loudly and with pride — whichever version resonates with you."
The task force of students, faculty, staff and alumni reviewed about 1,300 emails with suggested changes before making the decision, said Barbara Snyder, vice president of student affairs. She said the group sought a compromise position between inclusion and tradition.
Sam Ortiz, a former student body president, launched the push in April to change the lyrics. He said on Wednesday it was a small, but important step, in creating a more welcoming campus.
"As difficult as it may be, I hope the U continues the dialogue on ways to address issues of diversity and inclusion," said Ortiz, who graduated in May.
Many U.S. universities have changed nicknames or songs associated with their sports teams for reasons including racial sensitivity or because the terms had become outdated.
(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Peter Cooney and Mohammad Zargham)