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Former UT Coach, Darrell Royal, Dies at 88

Royal suffered from Alzheimer's disease

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Former Texas football coach Darrell Royal has died in Austin at age 88. Royal led the Longhorns to two national championships in 1963 and 1969, plus a share of a third in 1970. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease. (Published Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012)

    A Tuesday public memorial is planned for the University of Texas Austin campus for Darrell Royal.

    The son of Depression-era Oklahoman who became the most successful coach in the annals of Texas Longhorns football died early Wednesday at age 88 of complications of cardiovascular disease. Royal also had suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

    A public memorial ceremony is scheduled for noon Tuesday at the Frank Erwin Center basketball arena. Royal will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, an honor typically reserved for the state's military and political leaders.

    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.

    Royal took over as head coach at Texas at age 32 in 1956 after starring as a halfback for Oklahoma and then taking head coaching jobs at Mississippi State and Washington.

    In 23 years as a head coach, he never had a losing season, with his teams boasting a 167-47-5 record in his 20 years at Texas, the best record in the nation over that period (1957-1976).

    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.

    The national title season in 1969 included what was dubbed the "Game of the Century," a come-from-behind, 15-14 victory by the top-ranked Longhorns over No. 2 Arkansas in the final game of the regular season.

    Always a proponent of a strong running game, Royal is often quoted as saying: "Three things can happen when you pass and two of `em are bad."

    Asked later in his coaching career if he might switch to a passing attack, Royal said, you've got to "Dance with the one who brung ya."

    In 1968, Royal installed the wishbone, with the fullback lined up two yards behind the quarterback and a step up in front of the other two backs. With that formation, Royal's teams won 30 straight games and a record six straight SWC championships.

    Royal's teams won more SWC games (109) and more overall games (167) in 20 years at Texas than any coach in league history.

    Royal also served as Texas athletic director from 1962-1979 before becoming a special assistant for athletic programs to the UT president. In that capacity, he was influential in the hiring of Mack Brown as football coach in 1997.

    Texas honored Royal in 1996 by renaming Texas' football stadium, Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium.

    In announcing the name change, UT System Chancellor William Cunningham said, "No individual has contributed more to athletics at UT-Austin than Darrell Royal. He is a living legend."

    Royal was close friends with former President Lyndon B. Johnson, who attended Texas football games once his presidency ended.

    "I'm not a football fan," Johnson said. "But I am a fan of people, and I am a Darrell Royal fan because he is the rarest of human beings."

    Royal, who acknowledged being unconcerned about racial discrimination for much of his life and had all-white teams up until 1969, credited Johnson with turning around his viewpoint.

    Royal had a folksy, straight-forward approach to football and life that credited hard work as well as luck for his success.

    He was among the first football coaches in the nation to hire an academic counselor to ensure athletes went on to graduate. He also set aside a fund for a special "T" ring, which he personally awarded to his players upon their graduation.

    He was a stickler for following the rules, even when he disagreed with them.

    In 1976, Royal accused then-Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer of sending a spy to Texas practices, a violation of NCAA rules if the scout was reimbursed for his work.

    Royal challenged Switzer to take a lie detector test over the matter and said he would resign as coach at Texas if Switzer passed it. Switzer refused and the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry took on added intensity

    Royal was the youngest of six children born to Katy and B.R. "Burley" Royal and grew up in tiny Hollis, Okla., where he chopped cotton as a young boy to help his family through the Depression.

    His mother died before he was even 6 months old, and he lost two sisters to a fever epidemic before he reached the age of 11.

    Memories of DKR

    "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. I can hardly put in words how much Coach Royal means to me and all that he has done for me and my family. I wouldn't even be at Texas without Coach. 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.

    "Coach gave so much more to the State of Texas and college football than he took away. He forgot more football than most of us will ever know, including me. His impact on the game, the coaches and players, the community and the millions of lives he touched, is insurmountable. He will be missed in so many ways.

    "I lost my Dad when I was 54, and Coach filled a real void in my life and treated me like family. Sally and I gained a lot coming to Texas and being a part of this tremendous program but no more than our relationship with Coach and Edith. They were our closest of friends. Our heart pours out to Edith and the family and our thoughts and prayers are with her and the family. We will always be there to lend any and all support that we can as she and Coach always did for us." - University of Texas head football coach Mack Brown

    “I'm saddened to hear about the passing of Coach Darrell K. Royal. I knew Coach Royal for many years, including during my time at the University of Texas. Coach Royal touched the lives of countless Texans, as well as people around the nation. I greatly admired Coach Royal as a legendary coach and as someone who always strived to help others. He was a champion on the field and off. He and his wife Edith have carried the torch in the battle against Alzheimer’s Disease by the forming of the Darrell K. Royal Research Fund. He was a great family man and a man of deep faith. My thoughts and prayers go out to Edith and the Royal family.” - Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

    "Darrell Royal was a coaching icon and the face of football in the Lone Star State for a generation of Texans. His legacy can be counted in national championships, but also in his unending devotion to his university and in the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer's Disease. Anita and I join Texans everywhere in mourning his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife, Edith, son, Mack, and his extended family and friends." - Gov. Rick Perry

    "You are missed my friend." - Willie Nelson

    "Today I lost a father figure and great friend, Darrell Royal. You will NEVER be forgotten. Please keep the Royal family in your prayers." - Earl Campbell, via Facebook.