Darrell Royal, who coached the University of Washington football team in 1956 before going on to a Hall of Fame career at the University of Texas, died in Austin, TX., early Wednesday at 88. According to UT spokesman Nick Volnis, Royal had Alzheimer’s disease and recently had a fall at an assisted-living center where he was receiving care.
Royal came to Washington in late 1955 in the aftermath of a slush-fund scandal that landed the Huskies on NCAA probation for two years and led to the firings of coach John Cherberg and athletic director Harvey Cassill. As part of cleaning up the athletic program, the UW Board of Regents hired George Briggs, an assistant athletic director at California, as a replacement for Cassill.
Briggs offered Cherberg’s job to three prominent coaches, Michigan State’s Duffy Daugherty, Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson and Texas A&M’s Bear Bryant. Each rejected Briggs’ offer, but Wilkinson suggested Royal, the head coach at Mississippi State who had played quarterback for Wilkinson at Oklahoma.
The 31-year-old Royal agreed to a four-year contract at $17,000 per year, one of the highest salaries in the nation at the time. Under Royal, the Huskies went 5-5, finishing fifth in the Pacific Coast Conference.
At the end of the 1956 season, Texas offered its head coaching job to Royal, a native of Hollis, OK., and Briggs accepted Royal’s resignation. Royal became the first Husky football coach to leave the program voluntarily since before Gil Dobie was hired in 1908.
Briggs replaced Royal with a former college teammate of Royal’s, Jim Owens, who coached at Washington from 1957-74.
In 23 years as a head coach, Royal never had a losing season, with his teams boasting a 167-47-5 record in his 20 years at Texas, the best record in the nation over that period (1957-76).
Royal’s teams won 11 Southwest Conference titles, 10 Cotton Bowl championships and national championships in 1963, 1969 and 1970. His 1963 and 1969 teams both went 11-0.
Royal is credited with two innovations that set Texas out in front of the rest of the nation in offensive strategy: his “Flip-Flop Wing-T” in 1962 and the Wishbone in 1968.
He was ABC-TV’s Coach of the Decade for the 1960s. Royal retired as the Longhorn head coach after the 1976 season, devoting his time to the position of Texas’s athletic director, from which he retired in 1980.
Royal was inducted into the College Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983.