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Darrell K Royal: An Appreciation

Coach Darrell Royal, photograph by Russell Lee. Royal (Darrell K) Papers, di_01546.
Coach Darrell Royal, photograph by Russell Lee.
Darrell K Royal Papers, Briscoe Center, di_01546.
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On "Only a Game" John Wheat remembers Coach Royal

Darrell K Royal is a legend in University of Texas football history. However, his success on the field was matched by his personal integrity, mentorship of players and belief in education.

Coach Royal compiled a phenomenal 167-47-5 record in his twenty years as Longhorn Head Coach. He won eleven conference championships and three national titles, in 1963, 1969, and 1970. He introduced a devastating new triple-option offense, dubbed the "Wishbone," that swept college football for decades afterward. Sports writers named Royal "Coach of the Decade" of the 1960s, and he entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

To cap it all, in 1996 the University renamed its Memorial Stadium, next door to the Briscoe Center, as the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Royal was a motivator and father figure to his players, as well as being a witty charmer of sports writers, who eagerly devoured folksy expressions drawn from his small-town Oklahoma roots. A shy public speaker, he still moved easily in the celebrity circles that surround a top college coach, golfing and traveling with the likes of Bob Hope, Willie Nelson, and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Despite his success and fame, Royal's most enduring legacy to the University can be summed up in a single word: Integrity.

On "Only a Game" John Wheat remembers Coach Royal.

Royal was raised on the virtues of sportsmanship and playing by the rules. He lived by those standards in his personal and professional life, and expected the same from his players and colleagues. Where so many college athletic programs have succumbed to violations in recruiting and academics to gain a competitive edge, the standard that Royal set here at the University of Texas has kept this great institution away from tawdry headlines and NCAA sanctions.

Finally, Coach Royal always believed that his players were there to get an education. To that end, he created the position of Academic Advisor to his athletes to help them stay on track toward their degrees. He created the T Association, and bought commemorative rings out of his own pocket, to award athletes who both lettered and graduated. Coach Royal once said in an interview that those academic efforts, which were emulated in other universities across America, were among his proudest achievements. That comes from a coach who won three national championships.

John Wheat is the Briscoe Center's Coordinator for Sound Archives and Archives Translator. He is the author of Coach Royal: Conversations with a Texas Football Legend.