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 titles 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.
Royal didn't have a single losing season in his 23 years as a head coach at Texas, Mississippi State and Washington. Known for stout defenses and punishing running attacks, his Texas teams boasted a 167-47-5 record from 1957-1976, the best mark in the nation.
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.
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 an immense national stature. 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 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.
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, Texas coach Mack Brown. 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.