Honoring A Legend
There were many events that changed NCAA football this past week.
The team that had not lost a game since last November saw their demise in the BCS rankings after Texas A&M pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year. After all the talk that a Big 12 spread offense would not be able to compete in the “Great” SEC I think A&M has proved otherwise. Sadly had A&M remained in the Big 12 they may have seen a potential BCS Championship run this year, but that’s neither here nor there because the Big 12 suffered a loss far more devastating than the #8 team in the country — on November 8, 2012, football lost one of its most legendary pioneers as Darrell K Royal passed at age 88. DKR was not just a player/coach of America’s most beloved sport; he was a creator who changed the way the game would be played forever.
Shortly after playing for the Sooners from 1946-49, Royal’s coaching career began as an assistant coach for North Carolina State in 1950. From NC State, Royal moved around from school to school until finally landing his fourth head coaching job for the University of Texas in 1956. Coming off the Longhorns worst record ever the city of Austin had high hopes for their new head coach and he did not disappoint. 1957 would be Royal’s first season with the Longhorns and their last losing season for the next 20 years.
After leading Texas to its first national title in 1963, Royal would develop an offensive system that would not only change the game of football forever but would bring home two more national titles. There are not many people in the sport’s history that can truly say they changed the way the game was played, but Darrell K. Royal is one of them. The wishbone became a feature of Royal’s offense that would prove to be unstoppable. After a tie and a loss in the first two games of running the wishbone, the Longhorns would go on to win the next 30 games using this new style of offense. For years to follow, different variations of the offense would be implemented into teams like Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Alabama, and UT’s arch-rival Oklahoma. Ironically, the Sooners would not only run the wishbone but would become the longest running wishbone offense in college football.
Royal would finish his coaching career with the Longhorns in 1976 as the university’s most winning coach. He led the Horns to three national titles (1963, 1969, and 1790) and 11 Southwest Conference titles. In his 23 years as a head coach, Royal would not record a single losing season with a career record of 184-60-5, a statistic that surely played in his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983. His passing has proven to be an emotionally charged tidal wave that swept across college football that stopped deep in the heart of Texas Saturday morning as the Texas Longhorns took the field against the Iowa State Cyclones.
From the initials of the legendary coach stitched into the field and helmets of the burnt orange football squad to the fly-by before the game, one thing was for certain — Iowa State had no chance. There had been a lot of media talk about how the Horns would honor their fallen coach but it all started with the flip of a coin. In Royal fashion the Longhorns would defer to the Cyclones and start the game on defense. After a gut-wrenching drive from Iowa State that ended with a punt there was not a single person sitting as the Longhorns took to the field on their own six yard line. As expected the Longhorns took to the wishbone formation and the crowd went ecstatic as the fake run pass went for 47 yards to Greg Daniels in honor of one of the greatest head coaches in all of college football.