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Former football coach Darrell Royal was royalty in Texas

November 07, 2012|By Chris Dufresne
  • This Jan. 1, 1973 file photo shows Texas coach Darrell Royal being carried off the field by his players after the Longhorns defeated Alabama, 17-13, in the Cotton bowl.
This Jan. 1, 1973 file photo shows Texas coach Darrell Royal being carried… (Associated Press )

Darrell Royal, the legendary football coach who died on Wednesday, was considered royalty in Texas, where he coached for 20 years.

Royal was always referred to as "Coach Royal," years after he left the profession. He was hired at age 32 and retired in 1976, at age 52, after never having a losing season in 23 years as a head coach and posting a record of 167-47-5 in 20 years at Texas.

The Longhorns won outright national titles in 1963 and 1969 and the UPI coaches' share of the 1970 championship, which was awarded before the team's Cotton Bowl loss to Notre Dame.

Royal was born July 6, 1924, in Hollis, Okla., served in World War II and attended the University of Oklahoma.

Royal played quarterback for legendary Sooners Coach Bud Wilkinson and had brief head coaching stops at Mississippi State and Washington before Texas hired him, at age 32, in 1956.

"He was the greatest influence of all," Royal said of Wilkinson in a 2005 interview with The Times at his home outside Austin. "He never raised his voice. I never heard him chew anybody. Never saw him show flashes of anger."

Among his many accomplishments, Royal coached Texas to a 15-14 win over Arkansas in 1969 in what would be dubbed "The Game of the Century."

The game was largely the creation of ABC publicist Beano Cook, who convinced the schools to move the game to December to produce a more dramatic payoff. Cook died last month at age 82.

President Richard Nixon flew via helicopter to Fayetteville, Ark., to attend the game.

In 1968, Royal installed the "wishbone" offense, the brainchild of assistant coach Emory Bellard. Texas used the option attack to win 30 straight games.

In 1971, a year after USC shocked Alabama in Birmingham, Ala., 42-21, Bear Bryant sought out Royal to teach him the wishbone.

"SC had embarrassed him," Royal said.

Bryant phoned Royal and said he was coming to Texas.

"He stayed for several days," Royal recalled in the 2005 interview. "And they were long days."

Alabama used the offense to defeat USC, 17-10, and it helped Bryant to three more national titles in the 1970s.

Some critcized Royal for helping Bryant.

"He had helped me when I was young and in coaching," Royal said. "And he'd put in a kind word for me here and there. He helped me so it was only natural that I'd help him."


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