Darrell Royal, who died in November at the age of 88, was playing football at the University of Oklahoma when I was attending elementary schools, Hamilton Terrace Junior High and Byrd High (as a freshman in the fall of 1949). Years later, I covered a few games that his University of Texas Longhorns played during Royal’s Hall of Fame coaching career.
Royal coached two years at Mississippi State and one at Washington in the 1950s before starting his 20-year run at Texas. Two of his Longhorn teams (1963, 1969) wrapped up 11-0 national championship seasons with Cotton Bowl victories. His teams won three other Cotton Bowls, two Bluebonnet Bowls and the 1964 Orange Bowl. In 1970, Texas was No. 1 in the United Press International poll (taken before the Longhorns’ 24-11 Cotton Bowl loss to Notre Dame) and Nebraska was No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, finishing 11-0 with a 17-12 Orange Bowl win over LSU.
Texas was 1-9 the year before Royal took over the coaching reins. But he never had a losing season as a head coach. His 20-year record at Texas was 184 wins, 60 losses and five ties.
“Don’t matter what they throw at us,” he said of one showdown game. “Only angry people win football games.”
His Longhorn teams won three national championships (1963, 1969, 1970), won or shared 11 Southwest Conference titles and made 16 bowl appearances.
“God gives talent, size, speed,” Royal said. “But a guy can control how hard he tries.”
Win or lose, you didn’t have to listen to Royal long to come away with a few lines that folks would be repeating for years.
He was known from coast to coast for such country expressions as “Like the country girl at the dance, you have to dance with who brung you,” and “The sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s rear end every day.”
Royal also said, “Three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.”
After his No. 1 Longhorns were upset by TCU 6-0 in 1961, Royal said, “They are like a cockroach. It isn’t what he eats and totes off, but what he falls into and messes up.”
But Royal didn’t always use country expressions to sum up his thoughts about coaching. “The best thing a coach can hope for is to please the majority,” he said. “And the only way to please the majority is to win.”
That applies to Les Miles of LSU now as much as it applied to such coaches as Royal, Frank Broyles of Arkansas and Paul Dietzel of LSU in the 1950s.
I don’t know if Royal invented the Wishbone offense, but he is probably responsible for its name.
Royal was one of four All-America quarterbacks produced by Wilkinson at Oklahoma. The others were Eddie Crowder, Buddy Jones and Jack Mitchell. Wilkinson’s 1948 Sooners set a Big Seven Conference record by averaging 43.4 points per game in conference play. But Wilkinson stressed defense during his coaching career. “All things being equal,” he said, “the team with the soundest defense wins.”
In addition to his country expressions and Wishbone offense, Royal was known throughout his coaching career for producing teams that played great defense.