Coach Darrell K. Royal’s legacy lives on at UT’s exhibit

Erica Laible

This weekend marked the opening of an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 national championship football team, the first national championship won by Coach Darrell K Royal.

The exhibit, hosted by the H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, focuses on the 1963 football season and the life and career of the man after whom UT’s football stadium is named. In his time as coach, Royal led the team to three national championships and never had a losing season.

Terry Todd, director of the Stark Center and co-host of the exhibit, said he was inspired to create the exhibit after Royal’s death in November of 2012. Todd said he and Royal have a long history together.

“I started here in 1956, and he came here in the fall of 1956. We kinda grew up together here,” Todd said. “I came back in 1983 … and went to talk to him about … a place where materials related to athletes [and] former athletes could be kept and be saved.”

The exhibit, which features letters, pictures and other mementos from Royal’s life, relied heavily on contributions from Edith Royal, Darrell’s wife. The opening event featured “DKR: The Royal Scrapbook,” compiled by Edith Royal and Jenna Hays McEachren, a close family friend of the Royals. McEachren said the scrapbook focused on more than Royal’s life inside the stadium.

“This is not just a book about Coach Royal’s football success,” McEachern said. “It’s about his life with Edith and his family, and of course his unparalleled football success. I wanted people to know the man this stadium was named after.” 

McEachren said she believes the exhibit effectively captured Royal’s spirit, and said she especially loves the “Wall of Royalisms” containing the coach’s famous one-liners. 

“You never lose a game if the opponent doesn’t score,” the wall reads.

Mack Royal, Coach Darrell Royal’s son, and his wife April Royal, were also both at the opening of the exhibit. Mack Royal contributed to the scrapbook by scanning photos of his family and some of those photos were also included in the exhibit. 

“He was always cheerful. He would get us up in the morning and say, ‘It’s a great day in the morning!’” Mack Royal said. “There’s a picture of my dad sitting at his desk [at UT] entitled 33, No Secretary, Broken Desk, and Loves His Job.’”

Todd said the most gratifying moment of his work on the exhibit was seeing the reactions of the members of the team of 1963 when they came to sign the 1963 national champion banner two weeks prior to the exhibit’s opening.

“That was very gratifying to see them, the ones there, and if they felt that the things we put up represented them well and that they represented the coach they admired so much to their satisfaction, that was all the thanks I needed,” Todd said.