Royal: Texas-OU “about as good as you can get”
Darrell K Royal, he of the stadium by the same name, has a unique perspective on a rivalry that began as a scrimmage in Austin in 1900 and is renewed again this month on the site of the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.
An All-America quarterback at the conclusion of his OU career in 1949, Royal played in four of these contests and then was on the sidelines in 20 more as the head coach of the Longhorns.
“It’s always special,” said the legendary gentleman of the annual duel in the Cotton Bowl.
Royal, who retired as head coach following the 1976 season and relinquished his duties as athletics director in 1979, has been at Texas for 50 years, serving as a special assistant on athletics for the UT president before his retirement. He still serves as a part-time consultant.
“It’s not any more competitive or any bigger now than it was when I was playing in it,” Royal says of the series against Oklahoma. “People tend to forget how long Texas-Oklahoma has been a big game.”
Royal, who was 2-2 as a player against Texas, recorded a 12-7-1 mark as the Horns coach, His eight straight victories in the series from 1958 through 1965 is the longest streak for any Texas coach against OU.
“My favorite memory?” Royal began, repeating the question. “It would have to be my first victory in the series.”
That was in 1958 -- Royal’s second season as Texas’ head coach.
In that game, Royal took advantage of a rule change for that season that permitted two-point conversions after touchdowns. The 33-year-old UT headman made the decision before the game that if the Longhorns scored first, he was going to go for two.
They did. And he did, giving Texas an 8-0 edge en route to a 15-14 triumph.
“I was not really established as a head coach,” said Royal, who had been head coach at Mississippi State and Washington before succeeding Ed Price at Texas in 1957.
“Winning that game against Oklahoma was a big victory for a young coach,” he added.
There would be other big victories for Royal against his alma mater, including a classic in 1963.
That’s when No. 2 Texas bounced No. 1 Oklahoma, 28-7, as standout OU running back Joe Don Looney spent his day in the arms of UT defensive stalwarts Tommy Nobis and Scott Appleton, gaining only half-a-foot in the contest. It would be the last Texas-OU game for Sooners coach Bud Wilkinson.
Of course, that season ended with UT’s first national title when the Horns ripped Navy in the Cotton Bowl game in January 1964.
Oklahoma tried to hire Royal as head coach prior to the 1966 season and, ironically, the Sooners won that '66 encounter, 18-9, snapping the eight-game winning streak by the Longhorns.
Asked if he could have imagined spending his career on the OU side of the rivalry, Royal paused for a moment and said succinctly, “No.”
Most of all, what Royal recalls is the enduring scene of the annual meeting in Dallas. "It’s been sold out forever. It has a special place in college football. The walk down the tunnel. The stadium half in burnt orange and half in red -- that's about as good as it gets."