Darrell Royal, one of college football's most acclaimed coaches who led Texas to three national championships, has died in Austin, Texas. He was 88.
His death was announced Wednesday by the university, which did not say when he died. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
When Royal was named the Longhorns' coach in 1957, he took over a team that had won only one game the previous season. When he retired after 20 seasons, he had coached Texas to a 167-47-5 record, 11 Southwest Conference championships and 16 bowl appearances, and he never had a losing team. He was named national Coach of the Year five times and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
His squads pioneered a wishbone running offense that influenced college football far beyond the Austin campus.
Royal also endeared himself to Longhorns fans with his homespun style.
After Texas had lost to Arkansas and Rice on successive Saturdays in 1965, Royal was asked if he planned major changes. He replied: "There's an old saying, 'You dance with the one that brung ya.' "
He favored the ground game. As for passing: "Three things can happen, and two of them are bad."
As for attitude: "You've got to think lucky. If you fall into a mud hole, check your back pocket you might have caught a fish."
Royal, who was an All-America defensive back at Oklahoma, coached stars like Earl Campbell and Roosevelt Leaks at running back, Scott Appleton at tackle and Tommy Nobis at linebacker.
But his image came under fire when one of his reserve linemen of the mid-1960s, Gary Shaw, told of brutality and intimidation in his 1972 book, "Meat on the Hoof: The Hidden World of Texas Football." Shaw wrote that Royal put seldom-used players through drills in which they pummeled one another, hoping that many would quit so he could open up more recruiting spots for highly talented high school players.
"I don't deny at all that we ran a tough program, especially back then," Royal told Texas Monthly in 1982. "I don't think we ran it without feelings."
But he added, "I didn't recognize some of those drills he described. We never had them ever at any time."
James Street, the outstanding Texas quarterback of the late 1960s, told Texas Monthly that Royal could be aloof, even toward his top players.
"We sure never went to him for fatherly advice," Street recalled.
Royal delighted in players who relished hard hits, among them Nobis, his All-America linebacker of the mid-1960s.
"Aside from his super ability, he's just one of those trained pigs you love," he told Sports Illustrated. "He'll laugh and jump right in the slop for you."
Royal was the coach of the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League (1953), Mississippi State (1954-55) and the University of Washington (1956) before getting the Texas post.
In September 1968, Royal introduced the wishbone, devised largely by assistant Emory Ballard. It featured three runners lined up in the shape of a Y, or a wishbone, the fullback directly behind the quarterback and two tailbacks split behind them, offering several options on a given play and emphasizing quickness. Alabama, under Bear Bryant, and Oklahoma, coached by Barry Switzer, along with many other schools copied the offense and thrived with it.
After retiring as coach, Royal stayed on until 1980 as athletic director, a post he had held since 1962. He was later a special assistant to the university president on athletic matters.
In February 1964, Texas rewarded Royal for his first national championship by making him a full professor with tenure. But his folksy presence seemed unaffected.
Mickey Herskowitz, the Houston Chronicle sportswriter who gave the wishbone attack its name, recalled how Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey walked into Royal's office when he was a newly minted professor and saw him scowling while he scribbled on a pad.
As Herskowitz told it, "Jones asked what was wrong. Royal looked up and said, 'I've been sitting here for 30 minutes, trying to figure out if professor has one or two f's in it.' "
Survivors include his wife, Edith, and a son, Mack. A daughter, Marian, died in a car accident in 1973, and another son, David, died in a motorcycle accident in 1982.