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Royal's impact as big as Texas

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,College,Brian McNally

It is one of the strongest brands in college football, a program so popular that it partnered with ESPN to form its own network. But the man who made all of that possible for Texas passed away this week at age 88.

Around the country, Darrell Royal's name may not mean much anymore. He last coached a football game 36 years ago and retired as the school's athletic director in 1980. Fans under 40 are far more likely to think of Vince Young and Mack Brown when an image of Texas football pops into their head. But Royal remains a legend in Texas, a coach who led the Longhorns to three national titles, helped implement the famed wishbone offense and did it all with a folksy style that played well in his state.

"You dance with the one who brung ya" is a classic line used by football coaches everywhere when things are going poorly. Even political pundits turn to that old saying. Royal popularized it in the modern vernacular in 1965.

"Three things can happen, and two of them are bad," Royal once said of passing the football.

His offense, implemented at the college level by Longhorns offensive coordinator Emory Bellard in 1968, was a revolution in the sport and helped Texas win 30 straight games between 1968 and 1970. But it was in the context of a classic conservatism in football that was, for the most part, ushered aside when high-powered passing attacks took off in the mid-1990s. The wishbone was left to undermanned squads like the service academies and smaller Division I programs. Royal is gone now. But his imprint on Texas, where the football stadium bears his name, remains.

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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