A college football season has arrived at last in which the normally overcautious, self-tortured coach can quit stumbling over the water bucket every time his team fails to kick by third down. Darrell, Bear, Rip, Frank—the whole clan—have discovered that daring alternative, the forward pass, and in 1963 they will put the ball in the air more often by hand than by foot.
Job security being their first preoccupation, Texas' Darrell Royal, Alabama's Bear Bryant, Penn State's Rip Engle and Arkansas' Frank Broyles are not exactly doing funny imitations over this turn of events, but by their records of the past few years (see chart page 33) they have proved that they know how to spot a trend. Even more important, they know how to adjust to it.
Actually, these pathfinders led themselves inadvertently into the ulcerous new era of a wider, more open game by their own defensive thoroughness. While they managed to raise their infamous clouds of dust all right, the three yards that were supposed to follow became increasingly scarce. What the new style amounts to is another cycle in the evolution of modern T formation football. As the 5-2 Eagle defense caught up with the early straight T and the Oklahoma 5-4 shriveled the split T, the wide tackle six and the Monster (a roving linebacker) all but annihilated the power-accented wing T. As a result, college football's newest In trend is the shifting T and its newest In term is "extended motion."
In language that maybe the bands, the cheerleaders and even the spectators can understand, the shifting T will offer a more imaginative use of flankers, slot-backs and split ends deploying out of a shift just before the ball is snapped. The man in extended motion merely will take a wider route. The grand design is to scatter the defense and make the monster linebacker a poor guesser. And to make this offense work, the colleges must throw the football.
The season's two significant rules changes reinforce the decisions to pass more. Essentially, the substitution rule erases three-unit play. While coaches neither understand the rule nor approve it, they can see readily where flare passes to the sidelines will stop the clock, allowing them to insert specialists on second and third down. The other rule, which makes the quarterback eligible to receive a pass, already has the country's fullbacks spiraling footballs through the air with visions of quarterback glory dancing in their heads.
But the quarterbacks themselves will do most of the passing, and never have the colleges been so abundantly equipped in this department than they are this year. According to a majority of pro scouts, Miami's George Mira (see cover and page 96) is the best. But there are so many others of similarly proven talent pressing him that by the end of the season there will be people in every section of the country who will swear that they have the best boy, regardless of what All-America selection committees think. (For those closest to Mira, see scouting reports beginning on page 47.)
There also will be plenty of unconvinced partisans when the final standings of the top teams are published. Strenuous schedules both inside and outside their areas could easily reduce the won-lost records of some of the strongest teams in the land to the point where hardly any outsider would be impressed. Several of those on the 11 Best Elevens, selected by the editors of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and listed in order of their expected finish (right), meet head-on. Texas plays both Oklahoma and Arkansas. USC faces Washington and the Sooners. Northwestern meets Wisconsin and Alabama must reckon with Miami. If these teams fall, Nebraska, Navy, Florida and Clemson could push their way inside, but it is unlikely that any will push as far up as Texas, which should finish the season undefeated, the strongest team of 1963.
The strongest team has in the person of Darrell Royal a strong coach and strong athletic director with a curiously mixed attitude about the trend of 1963. Royal's record is exceptional, but his idea about throwing the football is as typically collegiate as the drugstore on the main drag.
"Sure we're in the entertainment business," says Royal, "and as an athletic director I can see that it would be good to open up our game a little. But as a coach I can assure you that nothing is as entertaining as winning. If a pro team knew it could win every game by not throwing a pass, I think I know what it would do. No good coach is ever going to neglect defense or the kicking game. We have neglected the pass, and we'll work harder on that. But we'll do it because we think it'll help us win, not because it's better show biz."
If the college coach was once a caricature of a growling man in a faded sweatshirt and baggy canvas pants, he is today almost another cliché. He is young, vigorous, persuasive, militant and enthusiastic. Darrell Royal typifies the rising young coach who has dominated the college game in recent years with his personality as well as his success. Others are Broyles, Missouri's Dan Devine, Washington's Jim Owens, Northwestern's Ara Parseghian and Army's Paul Dietzel. But Royal's five-year record in the Southwest Conference—as tough a league as any and tougher than most—thrust against the light of his steady competition is the best in the country. (Mississippi's Johnny Vaught has won more often, but he plays an easier schedule.) Royal has won or tied for three conference championships in six seasons, been to five bowl games, beaten ageless enemy Oklahoma five consecutive times, never lost more than three games in a single season, never finished lower than fourth in the SWC. Except for two of those furious upsets that characterize the Southwest, Royal's teams of the last two years (9-1 in 1961, 9-0-1 in 1962) could have been national champions. The 1963 team is better than either of the previous two.
To accomplish all of this, Darrell Royal has built on the bricks of defense and good kicking. As a very good split T quarterback under Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma (he was one of four quarterbacks selected on All-America teams in 1949), Royal seldom passed or needed to. He came into coaching in a conservative age when one paid obeisance only to field position. Behind field-position football was a theory that it was more important to be in the other team's territory than to have the ball. "If the other team can't score on you," Royal once said, "then you can't lose. You can tie, but you can't lose."
With this philosophy, Royal arrived at Texas in 1957. He was then 32, cautious, grim, tense, self-conscious, ambitious. If he had a sense of humor, it failed to show. The team he inherited had a 1-9 record the previous season. Oklahoma had beaten Texas for five straight years, and eight of the last nine. He did not even have a secretary. Was any of that supposed to be funny?
"We'll hit," said Royal coolly. "We'll find us some guys around here who want to dance every dance, and we'll turn that thing up in Dallas [the Oklahoma game] into a bloodletting again."
These words were just what the vast Texas alumni wanted to hear. So was his first year's record. He ended the season by taking a mixture of beat-dog seniors and eager sophomores into the Sugar Bowl with a 6-3-1 record. No Texas team since has had a record as spotted as that first one.
Despite success, Royal's Longhorns today have the same flavor of his early teams. They are alert, lean, fanatical, quick-hitting Texans who tackle in swarms and sprint to the scrimmage line as if their very lives were at stake.
"You can only get this kind of pride if you build from defense," says Royal. "We're proud of our defense."
Texas should be. In Royal's six seasons the Longhorns have made 28 successful goal line stands inside their 10-yard line, and 14 of these have been the major factor in winning games.
"Our theory is, when the other team gets inside our 20, we attack," Darrell says. "Last year Arkansas in the big game had us 3-0 and had second down on our three. It looked like it was all over. But Johnny Treadwell, our All-America linebacker, called the defense together and said, 'O.K., gang. We've got 'em by the tail now. They've run out of passing room. They've gotta run straight at us.' On the next play Treadwell and Pat Culpepper hit their fullback flush, caused him to fumble, and we got it. That fumble won us a championship. The point is, our kids believed in their defense and made it work. Man, it's fun to coach a team like that."
If pride is 50% of football, as most pep talks insist, then in one sense instilling it at Texas has been an easy thing for Royal to do. "It's a luxury to coach at a place like Texas," he says. "We're the biggest school in a big state. Why try to hide it? When a kid puts on the University of Texas uniform, we tell him that he's just naturally expected to believe in himself. An athlete will perform better if he feels he is representing the best of all possible institutions, and it's better if he can look around and be convinced of it."
This (to Royal) self-evident truth occurred to him sometime during his boyhood when he was growing up in Hollis, Okla. in dust-bowl country. He recalls now how he lived in constant dread of having to wear government-supplied clothing. "I never had much," he says. "We didn't go hungry and I'll always remember that my dad worked so hard that we bought our own clothes. But you can't kid a kid. If he's got eyes, he can look around and see that somebody else has got on a better coat."
Texas players with eyes need only look around them at the lovely, tree-shaded campus in Austin to see the results of six years of the Royal treatment. They include: an $80,000 lettermen's "T Room" in the stadium, complete with snack bar, study lounge, portrait gallery of past heroes, all of it "done right," as Royal says, by an interior decorator; new offices for the athletic staff and secretaries; a remodeled press box; a full-time tutor, Lan Hewlett, whose job as "brain coach" is to keep athletes studying and eligible; new turf for the stadium; new turf and a beautification program for the practice field (Royal chose the grass); repaving and recurbing of stadium parking lots, driveways and flower beds; remodeling of concession stands; changing of the game uniforms from bright orange to burnt orange, the official school color; and new workout equipment (almost every other school in the country uses game suits).
In addition, Royal takes all travel arrangements sternly into hand. "I want our athletes to dress right, travel right, eat good and stay at good places. Things like this must never be an issue," he says. "All of these things sustain morale."
Royal's awareness of the image has led him to become a public relations pacesetter among coaches. The evening before every game in Austin he is host at a cocktail party for the visiting officials and press. He also rents a hotel suite for a post-game interview party, win or lose, and holds court there with his attractive wife, Edith. In the off season, Royal makes periodic good-will trips around the state, playing golf and dining with sportswriters and alumni groups that now cherish each opportunity to rise, Stetsons over their hearts, and sing "The Eyes." Says Royal, "I like those guys who are shot in the rump with orange. Good recruiters."
All of this would seem to indicate that Darrell Royal is quite the politician, but the fact is that aside from being a smart football coach he can only be described as quite the golfer.
At conventions, clinics, business meetings or rules discussions, unless Royal is absolutely needed, he will be sneaking out to the nearest golf course. "I'll never be president of the coaches' association," he says, "because they put me to sleep when they start talking about group insurance and retirement benefits. I guess I'd rather play golf and complain about the rules."
Royal often plays with his assistants, who approach the game with the same fanaticism he does. Four of the Texas coaches—Royal, Jim Pittman, Mike Campbell and Russell Coffee—shoot in the 70s. The entire Texas staff probably can defeat any coaching staff in the U.S.
Royal's assistants talk, act, dress and almost look like him. At present, they wear short-sleeved dress shirts, preferably with button-down collars, thin ties, dark beltless slacks, loafers and conservative blazers.
"I'm convinced the world is divided into winners and losers," says Royal. "Some teams are born losers. It's their history, just like it's the history of Texas never to stay down for very long. Three years ago we didn't belong on the same field with one particular team. But I knew if our kids could stay with 'em until the fourth quarter that other team would find some way to lose. I told our kids this. 'They'll give it to you,' I said. 'It's their history.' And they did. They blew it.
"I know what it's like to take those long bus trips to a game. Eat that box lunch. You pull into the big school's campus, and its campus is prettier, the stadium's bigger, the dressing room is better. Your fans can talk it up all the year, throw the backyard barbecue and sing the fight songs. But that big school. They're not even thinking about you until a couple of days before the game. Then they fry your chestnuts and forget about you until next year.
"You hear guys who went to another school in our conference—A&M, Baylor or somewhere—talk for 20 minutes on why they didn't want to go to Texas. But you'll never hear a Longhorn explaining why he didn't go to another school. Put me in a room with 50 people and tell me that half of them went to Texas. I'll sort 'em out. The guy with the blue serge suit with his green socks rolled down didn't go to Texas."
A man of endless energy, Royal is an early riser who insists that he has never been wearied by the unglamorous aspects of coaching: recruiting trips, banquets, film study, interviews, spring workouts, glad-handing. If he is an image-seeker, he could not care less about status. "Some coaches," he says, "not only want to be the best at their trade, they want to be the richest. I want my family to be comfortable, but I can't even read the stock reports. I haven't been 'put in on' any great financial deals by any oil or cattle barons, and I'm not looking for any. The friends I have in Texas, rich or poor, are the people I like and enjoy. Aside from my salary ($20,000), I've got a television show. I've been given two automobiles. I've been taken to Mexico for a vacation. Like others, I make some money out of talks and clinics, and I've got a book out. That's the extent of my great wealth."
Not quite. Royal forgets to include the scads of highly sought-after Texas high school players who keep flocking to Austin to play for a coach who believes, "If we can kick the ball from our 30 to their 10, that's six first downs in one play. Most teams, I'd guess, work on their kicking game at the end of practice when everyone is tired. We work on it first."
Still, Royal began last spring exaggerating the work on passing. His quarterbacks, who have private meetings with him daily during the season, were throwing 50 balls a day, as opposed to 50 per week in the past. As a result, senior Duke Carlisle threw four touchdown passes in the spring game. "Our offense looked so good I was worried sick about the defense," Royal says.
"Last year we were criticized for being dull. Well, you make the best of your material. When we had that minnow [Jimmy Saxton, 1959-61] who broke up games, we weren't dull. Last year, we didn't have him. So some people thought we were uninspiring because we had to scoop out every yard. But we were undefeated. I've tried to think what a coach wants. I guess he wants to be considered the same way all the time because he knows he can't stay up there forever. At first, our fans only wanted to win. Now they not only want to win, they want to win big and flamboyantly."
Royal himself is more flamboyant, more of an outgoing person than he was in the beginning. On the sidelines he is still a tense, often grim, pacer and finger-licker. But he maintains great rapport with his players ("He talks our language," says Carlisle). He is in complete control of the game. And away from the field Royal has learned to take criticism about his conservative play without bristling. Last month at the college All-Star game in Chicago, Royal arrived at a party wearing a tiny tie clasp with a punter on it. When he walked over to greet Sports Columnist Bud Shrake of The Dallas Morning News, one of his most persistent needlers, the writer quickly pointed to the tie clasp and said, "What is it, Darrell, second-and-two?"
Once Royal would have turned red as an Oklahoma beet and sulked away. But he laughed and began moving around the room repeating the wisecrack. The winners always tell jokes.
DARRELL ROYAL OF TEXAS: WITHIN SIGHT OF THE STATE CAPITOL, A WINNING IMAGE
OUR 11 BEST ELEVENS
Penn State 8-2
Where does Royal get his raw material? Texas' giant high school football program is shown on the next 12 pages