The University of Texas at Austin has confirmed that former Longhorns football coach Darrell K. Royal has passed away. He was 88.
Royal coached the Longhorns from 1957-76, won 11 Southwest Conference titles, and introduced the "wishbone offense" to college football in 1968 during his illustrious career. He led the Longhorns to two national championships in 1963 and 1969, and shares credit for a third championship in 1970.
Royal suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and recently fell at an assisted living facility where he was receiving care.
Royal was born in 1924 in Hollis, Oklahoma. He was the youngest of six children, two of whom died along with his mother in the poverty of the dust bowl days.
After his father moved to California to pick oranges, Royal hitchhiked back to Hollis where he was an all-state quarterback and defensive back. He enlisted and was a tail gunner in the Air Force before marrying his High School sweetheart Edith.
When the war ended Royal headed to Norman to play at Oklahoma as longtime friend Cactus Pryor recalled.
After an all-American career for the Sooners, Royal began his coaching career in 1950 and when DX Bible brought him to Austin in 1956 he was 32 and the youngest head coach in college football.
Royal quickly restored pride in the Longhorns turning a 1-9 program to 6-3-1 and the sugar bowl in 1957, the first of 16 bowl trips in 20 years at Texas.
Royal brought back the burnt orange color and his horns won three national championships and 11 southwest conference titles while introducing Emory Bellard's wishbone offense spoofed in this skit with Edith for his TV show
The Royals were folksy and their friends included everyone from astronauts to music legends like Willie Nelson who sang at hotel picking parties
On his way to a 2nd National Title in 1969, the big shootout at Arkansas attended by President Nixon
That saw the James Street quarterbacked Longhorns rally in the fourth quarter on a fourth down surprise pass that defined the run oriented Royal's career as a play caller.
In a legendary photograph Royal, Street and Ted Koy accepted a National Championship plaque from Nixon and the Horns went on to beat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
Royal stepped down in 1976 at age 52 after 167 wins in 20 years at Texas, the Longhorn band spelled out his name at his final game as head coach.
He served briefly as Athletic Director and then was named Special Advisor to the president until his retirement in 1990, he was a special guest with Michigan legend Bo Shembeckler for the 2005 Rose Bowl win over Michigan and was still a fixture around the 40 acres until being diagnosed with dementia, something he and Edith went public with at the state capitol to raise awareness.
He was the face of Longhorn Athletics for more than 50 years and is remembered by those who knew and loved him as man of integrity and values learned from a long fulfilled life which include unmatched success as a coach.
UT Football Coach Mack Brown issued the following statement:
"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."
A public memorial will be held Tuesday at noon at the Frank Erwin Center. He will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery.
On Saturday, the Longhorns will honor Royal by wearing "DKR" stickers on their helmets and lining up in a wishbone formation.