Zac Collier is an Aggie through and through.
He went to college at Texas A&M, sang in a campus a cappella group and is very passionate about his alma mater’s rivalry with the University of Texas. So when the 27-year-old history teacher got the opportunity to sing the national anthem before a Women’s College World Series game between Oklahoma State and the Longhorns last week, he did what any Texas A&M fan — what any college fan, really — would do. He finished his performance, raised his fist in the air and flashed the ‘Horns Down’ sign.
Collier’s next anthem performance was supposed to be in Omaha, where the Aggies are playing in the Men’s College World Series. But it only took a few hours after the game for the NCAA to find out about his post-anthem hijinks and take action.
A month after being selected to perform The Star-Spangled Banner at Charles Schwab Field, the NCAA removed him because of what it deemed an ‘inappropriate gesture’ and mocking a participating team.
“There’s only one thing that they could consider an offensive gesture and mockery and that would have been the ‘Horns Down’,” Collier told For The Win. “I didn’t say anything to the coaches. I didn’t flip anybody off. I was very respectful. And I mean, I’m up there to do a job and to sing the national anthem and to sing it well, and to get the players and the coaches and the people in the stands pumped up. And I felt like I did that. ”
It’s unclear how NCAA officials were alerted to Collier’s performance. In response to For The Win‘s request for comment, the NCAA offered a brief explanation confirming Collier was asked not to perform:
“The performance of the national anthem during NCAA championship events is a solemn moment for reflection and mutual respect for all championship participants and fans in attendance. Following his national anthem performance during the Women’s College World Series – during which the performer inappropriately supported one participating team, taunted the other team, and disrupted participating student-athletes and coaches by attempting to interact with them – he was asked not to perform during the Men’s College World Series.”
Video of Collier’s performance shows him handing the mic off to a field-level employee and walking off the diamond shortly after he finished singing. He does not appear to attempt to interact with any student-athletes or coaches, nor does he appear to disrupt any of the participants.
The only thing Collier does other than sing the anthem is flash a ‘Go Pokes’ sign followed by a ‘Horns Down’ sign as the crowd goes wild. What’s that offensive?
“Absolutely not,” Collier said. “I don’t think a whole lot of Texas fans really give a crap about (the Horns Down). I think it’s the NCAA. That’s the ones that have an opinion on it. I think most Texas fans are fine with it.”
And if that’s going to offend Texas fans, the school’s move to the SEC might not work out too well for them. This is a conference where rivals pretend to urinate like dogs in the end zone and coaches call impromptu press conferences just to bash each other.
“Every single team that plays Texas is going to be throwing down the ‘Horns Down’,” Collier said. “Every single team in the SEC is going to do that … just like everybody else around the country does it.”
“When you play Texas, you throw the Horns Down.”
Honestly, Collier should’ve just been assessed a 15-yard penalty like any other player who commits an act of unsportsmanlike conduct. Instead of performing the anthem behind home plate, he can move back behind second base and that’ll be the end of it.
Of course, that’s not how the NCAA operates. Not when it has the chance to throw the book at someone. Collier’s punishment instead is to not spend hundreds on gas for the 10.5-hour drive to Omaha to sing the anthem. With a baby on the way, he’s OK keeping that money in savings.
This hasn’t discouraged Collier from continuing to sing the anthem where he’s welcome. He’s done so for the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Dallas Wings and plenty of other teams over the last decade.
And as much as he wants to sing in Omaha, his ultimate goal is to sing at Kyle Field before a Texas A&M football game. You can already guess which game he wants to perform at.
“If it was A&M versus Texas, and I was in College Station, I would give the ‘Horns Down’ after my performance,” Collier said.
Of course he would.