AUSTIN, Texas — A son of Depression-era Oklahoma, Darrell Royal came to Texas to take over a sleeping giant. Over 20 years, his folksy approach to sports and life, his inventive wishbone offense and a victory in the "Game of the Century," made him an icon of college football.
Mr. Royal, who won two national championships and turned the Longhorns into a national power, died Wednesday at age 88 of complications from cardiovascular disease, school spokesman Bill Little said. Mr. Royal also suffered from Alzheimer's disease and recently fell at an assisted living center.
Known for their stout defenses and punishing running attacks, Mr. Royal's Texas teams boasted a 167-47-5 record from 1957 to 1976, the best mark in the nation over that period.
"It was fun," Mr. 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."
It almost didn't happen. Texas was coming off a 1-9 season in 1956 and wanted a high-profile coach. The Longhorns were rebuffed by Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd and Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty, but both encouraged Texas to hire the 32-year-old Mr. Royal, who led the Longhorns to a 6-3-1 record in his first season.
Under Mr. Royal, Texas won 11 Southwest Conference titles, 10 Cotton Bowl titles, and national championships in 1963 and 1969, going 11-0 each time. The Longhorns also won a share of the 1970 national title. Mr. Royal was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
On Saturday, the Longhorns will honor Mr. Royal at their home game against Iowa State by lining up in the wishbone 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," current Texas coach Mack Brown said. "His counsel and friendship meant a lot to me before I came to Texas, but it's been my guiding light for my 15 years here."
Mr. Royal and assistant Emory Ballard changed the landscape in 1968 with the development of the wishbone, which features a fullback lined up behind the quarterback and a step in front of two other backs.
The innovation nearly flopped. After a tie and loss in the first two games, a frustrated Mr. Royal inserted backup James Street to take over.
"Coach Royal grabbed me and he looked for a minute as if he were having second thoughts about putting me in. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, 'Hell, you can't do any worse. Get in there,' " Street said.
Texas won its next 30 games, and soon other schools started using the wishbone.
The national title season in 1969 included what was dubbed the "Game of the Century," a come-from-behind, 15-14 victory by the top-ranked Longhorns over No. 2 Arkansas.
Bowling Green 26, Ohio 14: Anthon Samuel ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns as the Falcons (7-3, 5-1 Mid-American) beat the host Bobcats (8-2, 4-2) for their sixth straight victory. Samuel reached 100 yards for the 10th time in his first 18 games.