Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - This Sept. 18, 2007 file photo shows former Texas head football coach Darrell Royal posed at his apartment complex in Austin, Texas. The University of Texas says Royal, who won two national championships and a share of a third, has died. He was 88. UT spokesman Nick Voinis on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 confirmed Royal's death in Austin. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
College football: Ex-University of Texas coach Royal dies at age 88
First Published Nov 07 2012 01:56 pm • Last Updated Nov 07 2012 03:03 pm

AUSTIN, Texas • A son of Depression-era Oklahoma, Darrell Royal came to Texas to take over a sleeping giant of a football program. Over 20 years, his folksy approach to sports and life, his inventive wishbone offense and a victory in the "Game of the Century" — where a U.S. president declared his team national champion — made him an icon of college football.

Royal, who won two national championships and turned the Longhorns program into a national power, died early Wednesday at age 88 of complications from cardiovascular disease, school spokesman Bill Little said. Royal also had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Royal didn’t have a single losing season in his 23 years as a head coach at Texas, Mississippi State and Washington. Known for their stout defenses and punishing running attacks, his Texas teams boasted a 167-47-5 record from 1957-1976, the best mark in the nation over that period.

"It was fun," Royal told The Associated Press in 2007. "All the days I was coaching at Texas, I knew this would be my last coaching job. I knew it when I got here."

It almost didn’t happen. Royal wasn’t Texas’ first choice.

Texas was coming off a 1-9 season in 1956 — still the worst in program history — and wanted a high-profile coach to turn things around. The Longhorns were rebuffed by Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd and Michigan State’s Duffy Daugherty, but both coaches encouraged Texas to hire the 32-year-old Royal, who was lying in bed the night he got the call summoning him to Austin.

"Edith, this is it, this is the University of Texas," Royal told his wife.

Royal led the Longhorns to a 6-3-1 record in his first season, but he was so sickened by Mississippi’s 39-7 thrashing of his team in the Sugar Bowl that he gave away the commemorative bowl watch he received.

Under Royal, Texas won 11 Southwest Conference titles, 10 Cotton Bowl championships and national championships in 1963 and 1969, going 11-0 each time. The Longhorns also won a share of the 1970 national title, earning him a national stature that rivaled that of Alabama’s Paul "Bear" Bryant and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes. Royal was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced, but Royal will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, an honor typically reserved for the state’s military and political leaders.


story continues below
story continues below

On Saturday, the Longhorns will honor Royal at their home game against Iowa State by wearing "DKR" stickers on their helmets and by lining up in the wishbone formation, which Royal used to such great success, for their first offensive snap.

"Today is a very sad day. I lost a wonderful friend, a mentor, a confidant and my hero. College football lost maybe its best ever and the world lost a great man," current Texas coach Mack Brown said Wednesday. "His council and friendship meant a lot to me before I came to Texas, but it’s been my guiding light for my 15 years here."

As a player at Oklahoma, Royal was a standout quarterback, defensive back and punter, and he credited hard work and luck for his success on the field and later as a coach. He had a self-deprecating style and a knack for delivering pithy quotes — or "Royalisms" — about his team and opponents.

"Football doesn’t build character, it eliminates the weak ones," was one of Royal’s famous lines.

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity," was another.

"He was a guy who was so strong and so determined and so direct about things," said former Texas quarterback James Street. "He was that way to the very end."

Royal and assistant Emory Ballard changed the football landscape in 1968 with the development of the wishbone, which features a fullback lined up two yards behind the quarterback and a step in front of two other backs.

The innovation nearly flopped. After a tie and loss in the first two games that season, a frustrated Royal inserted backup Street to take over.

"Coach Royal grabbed me and he looked for a minute as if he were having second thoughts about putting me in. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Hell, you can’t do any worse. Get in there,’" Street said

Texas won its next 30 games. Soon, rival Oklahoma and other schools started using the wishbone as well.

"The University of Oklahoma joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the life’s work of Darrell Royal," said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. "We’ve truly lost an icon - a champion, an innovator and an educator."

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.