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                             TLSN is building bridges to the  past, present, and future


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Darrell K. Royal - The Bridge Builder




DKR's Story is an Horatio Alger story. Born into poverty his curiosity, focus, and commitment to detail helped him reach the pinnacle of success as a football player and Coach.  


His journey into destiny begins with lessons learned in his youth, gains momentum during his years as a player at OU, accelerates during his Coaching years at Tulsa, North Carolina State, Mississippi State,University of Washington and the CFL, and peaks during his years as the Longhorn head coach.  

By the time Coach Royal is hired at Texas he has all the tools to build bridges except one.





He was Afraid Of Public Speaking

Once while an assistant Coach at North Carolina State he completely forgot his speech at a banquet. Royal said "I got up to talk and drew a complete blank. If you've never had this happen to you, you don't know how frightful it is and how painful it is ...... I finally Just said I am sorry and sat down." It was after this embarrassing episode that DKR said to himself "if I am going to stay In coaching I have to whip this thing (Fear Of Public Speaking) or get out and try something else".

The origin of Royalisms 

Royalisms  have their roots in country music and in his hometown of Hollis, Oklahoma.  Years ago  Royal said to me after Barry Switzer wrote his biography that chronicled his rise from squalor to the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys that   "Barry had no exclusive on being dirt poor as a young boy."  As a boy Royal also survived a tenuous family life  during one of the worst economic  periods in American history. 

In his younger days Royal was fascinated by a songwriter's ability to tell colorful stories in   2 minute song.   He  knew from the content  of the songs that the songwriters  wrote from experience and were "part of this world".   

He once said " I've stolen and copied ways of expressing myself from songwriters".  Royal learned from Country music how to make poignant  visual points in a sentence.    DKR learned at Texas that the press "didn't want a long, drawn out explanation".  He said "they wanted something they could  write, and they couldn't write a book. "   Once Royal understood what the press wanted  he started making insightful comments that were short, penetrating, and visual.  Someone tagged these comments as Royalisms and the name stuck.    Here is a sample of DKR using his  "songwriter" skills to deliver his message to the press in a form they wanted. 

 Coach Royal says of James Saxton “He’s the quickest football player I’ve seen. He gives you a thrill on a two-yard gain.

He is like a balloon full of air. When you turn him loose, there’s no telling where he’s going and when the play is over, he’s spent”.

However none of the Royalisms would have occurred without the ability to speak in public.  Enter Bill Alexander a consummate speaker  who helped Coach Royal overcome his fear of public speaking.  Bill told Royal to memorize The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole and learn to tell it like a story and not a poem.  Go to the 5:45 mark  "Tribute to Darrell K. Royal" link  to hear Coach Royal recite the poem. 

Coach Royal did as instructed and learned a valuable lesson in the process. You can't imitate someone's speaking style or their mannerisms without coming across as phony so he decided to just be himself at speaking engagements. He commented "I do think that if you're sincere, even in a clumsy way, sometimes it might have some effect."  After this revelation and the inspiration derived from Country Western songwriters, Royal  finally created his own style and the Royalisms  started to flow and bridge building took center stage the remainder of his life. 



The book "The Darrell Royal Story" by Jimmy Banks states that at a young age boxing taught him that "over-respect for your opponent can be just as dangerous as under-respect." The video to the left makes Coach Royal's  point. One boxer was putting his bluff in on the other boxer. It did not work.

Coach Royal's teams were never bluffed by the opposition.  During the build-up to the 1963 National Championship game against Navy, the East Coast media and the head coach of Navy tried to bluff Coach Royal and the Longhorns.



East Coast free-lance writer Myron Cope stated that Texas is "the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the football public... Texas plays the kind of football that was fashionable when players wore perforated cowhide helmets...Duke Carlisle executes a hand-off like A construction foreman passing a plank to a carpenter." East Coast sports writers also thought the Royal players were "slow guys with skinny legs and big butts." While laughing at Texas and Duke the East Coast Media portrayed Navy and Heisman winner Roger Staubach as glamorous. 

Coach Royal's response to all of this bluffing was a three word sentence.  "We are ready". The Longhorns won the game convincingly. In reality, the Texas win over Navy was the last hooray for the dominance of North East Coast football. Great football moved South And West and North East football never regained prominence.

Royal learns a personal lesson about small football players.  

He was  told in high school that he was too small to try out for the football team.  While small with medium speed, he did not know it. In his mind and in his spirit he felt bigger and faster than anyone. Because of his rejection due to size, Royal understood early in his coaching career that slow and small guys  who think they are big and fast are  great recruits. He knew these young men were winners because he also overcame size with  heart, attitude, and spirit. 

Royal's great teams in the 60's  had many players  who believed they were bigger and faster than they actually were, and they won. He often said about recruiting  "if I have to make a choice I'll take the cocky ,overconfident , conceited kid over the one who has so much humility he can't look you in the eye."





One of the Navy players in the 1963 championship game said competing against Jack Lambert in the NFL was easier than playing against Texas players. He said "the guy in my nightmare is George Brucks from Hondo, Texas "who weighed under 200 pounds, but  he took my head off all day long."    

Royal also gravitated to recruits with dreams. No great activity starts without a dream, and as a young man Royal dreamed of kicking a ball 90 yards, running faster than anyone, and getting a coaching job that he could never get.  




Royal was a great coach, civic leader, and ambassador for the University of Texas, but his most enduring legacy is building bridges for young Longhorns to cross. I am a product of his legacy. As a young man with dreams of greatness, Coach Royal built a bridge for me to cross so I could have the chance to fulfill my dreams.  In me he saw a young man who thought he was bigger and faster than he actually was and nurtured those beliefs. I did not fulfill my goal of greatness as a Longhorn athlete, but I did cross the bridge he built for me and found  new dreams that resulted in fulfillment in other forms. In life that is all a bridge builder can do. 

The greatest years of Coach Royal's life were inspired by a poem that helped him overcome a fear of public speaking. In the process the message of the poem was his epiphany. The poem directed him to his true calling which was to " youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm which has been naught to me To that young man may a pitfall be. He, too, must cross in the twilight dim. Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.

Thank you Coach Royal for helping build my bridge.

Billy Dale proud member of the 1967 football recruiting class  


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Donna Lopiano a Longhorn sports Pioneer 

Most University administrations are slow to accept change. It took UT 50 years for Texas to concede that women could tolerate  physical punishment in competitive sports. Because of  the slow movement of change, pioneers deserve to be judged by a different set of standards. Success for pioneers may not be evident for 20 to 30 years making short term judgments of their accomplishments problematic.

By definition, Pioneers are risk takers and without them there is no beginning. Sports pioneers use vision, insight, resolve, and many other intangibles to excel. They are able to successfully implement new ideas,  and  remove obstacles that others could not master. 

In addition to dealing with the same problems that all administrators face in a athletic departments, sports pioneers must contend with the major obstacles inherent in changing or creating a new program.  Pioneers are restrained by small budgets, the ebb and flow of recruiting, and turf wars with other competing sports programs within the athletic department. 

While men overcame many obstacles to qualify as sports pioneers,  women overcame more. Before a woman could be acknowledged as an athlete, Athletic Director,  or coach they had to first secure equal rights- ask Donna Lopiano.

Tessa Nichols states that in the early years of the 20th century  women's sports were "circumscribed by gender norms and restrictive ideologies which delineated the acceptable ways in which women could perform in sports".  During those years "excessive" competition for woman was considered too "masculine". To eliminate the masculine aspect of sports the physical educators of this period decried record setting and personal athletic glory. The goal of Women's sports "aimed to ensure that the health and educational best interest for their women students were sacrosanct". 

It was not until the 1950's that a movement started that would  eventually correct many of the the bias's inculcated into the fiber of our society.  Sports led the way in this renaissance, and in 1975  "nothing in moderation" Donna Lopiano led the charge. Lopiano was a "ardent feminist" who fought for equal rights for women at a university that was dominated by a successful men's program. Aided by Title IX, the civil rights movement, and her take no prisoner leadership style, Donna Lopiano was the right hire at the right time in the history of  Longhorn women's sports.   

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Donna Lopiano was able to harness women's sports as a venue to  enhance  women's rights in other forums. 

Lopiano  corrected many of the gender inequalities that separated the men's program from the women's program including coaching salaries, dining hall access, and use of  the  training facilities.

Tessa Nichols' Master of Arts thesis titled ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES AND WOMEN'S SPORTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS 1918-1992 captures all the leadership skills of Lopiano.  Tessa's says that  Donna Lopiano built a successful Longhorn Women's Athletic Department by establishing: 

  • a performance team;
  • student athlete counseling services;
  • a psychological support system;
  • addressing health problems of  the student athletes;
  • a commitment to the student athletes welfare; and
  • the creation of the Neighborhood Longhorns. 


1975-1992  "Nothing in Moderation" Donna Lopiano makes her feelings known


1975 - the Master teacher

Lorene Rogers, The President of the University of Texas, accepted the Advisory committee on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women recommendation to hire Donna Lopiano. The committee stated that Donna's energy, strong vision, and dynamic intellect convinced them that Lopiano was the right person for the job.  

Donna Lopiano's budget in 1975 was  $128,000 with 28 scholarship available.



Donna Lopiano was long term goal oriented.

One of her first long term goals  was to hire full time coaches instead of using teachers who coached on the side.   She envisioned coaches as "Master Teachers". She believed that "athletics was not separate from education, but intimately connected" The word "Master" referred to the coaches as the very best in the sport they taught,  and the word "Teacher" stressed the need for coaches  to possess a sound "personal educational philosophy".  By 1982 all of the Coaches in the Women's Athletic Department  were full time employees and each coach was ranked in  the top 10 in the country  in their respective sports.

The second long term goal  was to move the Longhorns from  competing only regional to competing nationally  with a focus of playing at least 6 national ranked teams every season. 

The third Long term goal was to fund the maximum number of scholarships as designated by the organizational rules.

The fourth long term goal was to achieve an "exemplary graduation rate"  of no less than 95%. (Many parts of Lopiano's successful student academic model were adopted by the men's program in 2007.) 

Unlike Anna Hiss, Donna Lopiano believed that  a  sports organization structure could be created that valued winning, education, and student-athlete welfare.  Tessa Nichols states that Lopiano believed she could balance all of these factors and have great athletes and teams.  The transformation of her convictions  and long term goals into  reality are apparent.

Donna's 17 years as the Women's Athletic Director for Texas is unparalleled in College football history. 



  • One National Champion, 8 conference champions, and 8 tournament champions in basketball; 
  • Six conference champions in golf;
  • Three indoor track national champions, 2 outdoor track national champions, 8 indoor track  conference champions, and 7 out door champions in track;
  • Eleven conference champions and one national champion in volleyball;
  • Nine national champions and 10 conference champions in swimming;
  • One  national champion in cross country;
  • One runner up to the national championship , one semi-final appearance, and 8 conference champions in Tennis, and a 
  • 93%+ graduation rate.

Note: Softball, soccer,and rowing were not NCAA sports during Lopiano years as Athletic Director

Donna's success's in funding helps the Women's program grow

Funding for the department was derived from external and internal sources. Internal included Auxiliary ventures such as royalties from the sale of Longhorn merchandise, and voluntary student athletic fee. External funds came from independent sources which included private donors, The Fast Break Club, scholarship endowments, and gate receipts. 

In 1980 Lopiano's budget had grown from $128,000 to $850,000. IN  1987 the Women's Athletic budget was 2.8 million and in 1992 the Women's Athletic budget was  4.2 million










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Dated January 19, 2018

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When  water was for Sissies By Billy Dale

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Joe Good  is a fictional football player trying out for the  Core Heat  AA High School  football team  in a West Texas town in 1961. It is a time when Coaches  believed that drinking water during football practice was forbidden.


During the first 4 minutes of conditioning drill on the first day of practice on a hot humid day in late August 1961 Joe Good would become another statistic of the "water is for sissies" conviction.   Joe died when his core temperature  reached 108 degrees and all his organs shut down. 

In 1961  medical professionals were still researching the significance of  dehydration in the death spiral.  Joe Good  died because dehydration made his blood thicker which increased his  heart rate and decreased the amount of blood his  heart could pump with each beat. To exacerbate Joe's problem dehydration made it harder for his fat to get into his  muscles to be used for fuel. Instead  his  muscles burn the limited sugars (glycogen) already there. 

Since the full dynamics of  the role dehydration plays in  heat stroke was unknown  to the Coaches at  "Core Heat  High School " , they continued to use proven techniques learned from past generations of Coaches  to “motivate”  their athletes.  One of the "truisms" past down from from coach to coach that remained unchallenged until 1962 was NO water at practice. Also past down from previous generations of coaches was the "proven" player motivational techniques of screaming, cajoling, and if necessary spewing insulting remarks at a player .   It was during conditioning drills that all these  "motivational" techniques came into play.. Conditioning drills allowed Coaches insight into the “character” of their athletes. It was a time to separate  the “sissies” from the winners.   All the players knew not to  ask for water during work-out  because it was tantamount to admitting to a  character flaw and a weak spirit.


On the day of Joe’s death his brain sent him a message. It said slow down because  you are fatigued and  upir core temperature is rising.  Joe did exactly what his mind said,  but the Coach interpreted Joe’s slower pace as laziness and gave Joe a symbolic “kick in the butt" using cajoling and derogatory remarks as the "motivational" techniques of choice. 

This was a flawed  technique  for Joe's particular personality traits.  Joe was a proud individual who wanted to make the team at all cost so the verbal kicks  were not effective.  His Coaches  comments  only  served to embarrass him in front of his peers.  According to Coach Darrell Royal  “ When you take  pride away from a player, you've destroyed the best tool you've got.  If you hurt him, you've hurt the team."



Joe's pride was hurt, but his motivation to make the team remained intact.  Joe was a  normal  17 year old boy  trying to find his way in life.  He wanted recognition and a sense of belonging. Football offered him that chance.  He wanted the adoration of all the pretty girls ,  attention at parties, respect from peers, and recognition from the residence of his hometown.  He had no desire to play beyond his high school years, and a college education was not in his future.  Making the team would be a major benchmark in his life.    Joe was willing to use samurai warrior techniques to make the the team so he pushed himself harder during the conditioning drills.   Joe's decision to push harder  when his mind said slow down was the final bad decision in a perfect storm of events that took his life .  

Joe's positive attributes- a hard working attitude, determination to succeed , and his never quit mentality-  combined with a hot humid day , a coach who pushed too hard, and a refusal to listen to his body caused his death.   If only one of these factors had not been present  Joe would still be alive.

Joe’s death was only covered locally. A reflection of the national mindset of the media and  general populous in  the 60’s.   A death of an athlete at practice was not worthy of national news.  Everyone of course was sad at Joe's  passing, but fans who loved football understood that “inherently uncontrollable risks” are part of the game and Joe knew that risk.    One year later two events will shock the sports  world.  All would learn that dying from dehydration is not an  inherently uncontrollable risk.  It is in fact controllable and preventable.   

One year after fictional Joe Good passed away  two real heat related deaths in the SWC would expose the belief that water is for sissies as a fraud.  It would forever change the dynamics of  hydration at practice.

Most coaches at the University level prior to 1962 followed the “truism” that  water is for sissies.   Royal’s football program adhered to this belief. Coach Royal wanted tough players so he had tough workouts with lots of conditioning.  I know because I played for him in the late 60’s on two national championship teams. Royal said  "Football is a physical contact, spartan game.  You don't go out there for any taffy-pull......"  Under Royal’s regime only the strongest survived.  

 Pat Culpepper’s played ball for the Horns in the early 60’s and he wrote an Orange Blood thread about what happened in 1962 that finally exposed  “water is for sissies”  as an imposter. 

 He says,  “We (Longhorns) had come through two weeks of full pad practices in the Austin heat and humidity. There were water breaks for the first time because of heat problems around the Southwest Conference. In fact, we had five players taken to Breckenridge Hospital with heat dehydration. Only one never made it back - Reggie Grob from Houston. He died along with the senior captain from SMU, Mike Kelsey. Doctors thought the new plastic shoulder pads had something to do with the heat problems. Most of us wore expensive leather shoulder pads that actually got wet with our sweat which let some air through the jerseys while the plastic pads encased the player and did not allow any air. Before those youngsters died we never got water breaks, but our head coach Darrell Royal, as other coaches learned a tragic lesson. We went to Reggie's memorial service in Houston as a team in two buses on Monday of our first game.

Pat is referring to the deaths of Mike Kelsey, the starting center for SMU  and Reggie Grob from Texas who had heat stroke on the same day as Mike but who survived for  17 days before succumbing to  liver and kidney failure.  Reggie  was 19 years old.  At the time of Reggie’s passing only salt tablets were offered to reduce dehydration during practice.   







According to Jones Ramsey (Sports Information Director) Coach Royal was devastated by Reggie’s death and “collapses and cries” in the huge arms of Defensive Line Coach Charley Shria.

Bill Little said about Reggie " In a very real sense, his death meant that thousands and thousands have lived. Out of tragedy, he gave us all a gift. And that's why he's a legend".









The death of Reggie and Mike  was a wake up call for all who are associated with sports.  Doctors, led by the American Medical Association, began immediate research on the effects of heat on the human body. Within a year, Universities mandated more liquids be served to athletes during work-out and games.

At the high school level changes in many states moved at a much slower rate than others.  For the states who moved quickly  routines were  governed by schools and  State athletic associations and individual school districts  mandating limited practices during certain times of day,  and practice days without full pads so that athletes could acclimate to the weather.  For states who moved slowly one state representative in 2018 is still  struggling to pass a bill through the General Assembly that would require head coaches and assistant coaches of interscholastic or intramural sports to complete an education course on heat-related medical issues that could arise from a student athlete's training.  In  Kentucky in 2009  a coach faced reckless homicide and wanton-endangerment charges in connection with 15-year-old heat related death.  It was alleged that his players  were in full gear, and several of them  were denied water and told to keep running wind sprints -- called "gassers" -- in 94 degree heat, even after vomiting.  It was learned  that the boy who died was taking  amphetamine Adderall for an attention deficit disorder which affects the body's ability to thermal regulate.  The coach was acquitted by a jury in two hours, but another lesson was learned at the expense of a young boy.   In 2011  two football players and one coach died  after practise  in scorching temperatures. Stopping heat stroke deaths takes a combination of adequate hydration and coaches that understand  the causes and symptoms of heat stroke.  



Education and  hydration are the answer to ZERO deaths from heat stroke.

The 1960's was the beginning of the educational process that still continues. The learning curve to eliminate heat stroke is still costing the lives of many boys as late as 2010.   Who knew in 1962 that the new plastic shoulder pads that did not allow  air ventilation could have cost the lives of  Mike and Reggie.  Who knew in 2009 that a prescription amphetamines combined with a strenuous workout could precipitate a death.  Who knew that in the early 2000's new causes of heat stroke deaths would result in the death rate rising for the first time in 40 years.   Some in the medical professional  believe  that the reason for the rise in heat related deaths in the 2000’s is due to the size of the high school players, and higher morning temperatures than decades ago.  Doctors state the many of the current high school athletes are enormous, but their  weight is more fat than  muscle and even if this athlete is hydrated the fact that fat makes it harder for the body to dissipate heat could cost heat stroke.  Quite frankly if Joe Good had played ball in  2018 instead of 1961 he still may have died.  

1960’s- 42 deaths   1970’s – 31 deaths    1980’s – 14 deaths   1990’s – 14 deaths    2000’s -  29 deaths

At the college level based on an ANNUAL SURVEY OF FOOTBALL INJURY RESEARCH  from 1931 - 2014  by  Kristen L. Kucera, MSPH, PhD, ATC Director, National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill the worst decades  for heat stroke were in the 60’s and 70’s.


From my perspective 56 years after Reggie's death,  Bill Littles positive comment that Reggies "death meant that thousands and thousands have lived. Out of tragedy, he gave us all a gift. And that's why he's a legend" is still true but somewhat tainted by the lessons not learned over the last 56 years.  From my perspective it is inexcusable for  one athlete to die from heat stroke in 2018. Shame on any  system that knows all the causes of  heat stroke, but refuses to follow protocol to prevent it.  Until  the system becomes more disciplined and educated  more preventable deaths of  young boys will continue and their  families will suffer the consequences.    


Billy Dale- Proud member of the 1967 football recruiting class.