"No words are adequate to describe the impact Darrell Royal had on this state .. and Texas football,"  said Texas' athletics director.

Story highlights

Royal won three national championships as head coach at University of Texas

He helped introduce the wishbone formation to college football

Royal is the winningest coach at Texas, one of college football's biggest programs

CNN  — 

Darrell Royal, the football coach who led the University of Texas to at least a share of three national championships in the 1960s and 1970s, died Wednesday in Austin after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

He was 88.

Royal is the winningest coach at Texas, one of college football’s biggest programs. He compiled a 167-45-5 record at Texas from 1957 to 1976 and helped offensive coordinator Emory Bellard introduce the wishbone option offense to the Longhorns and to college football in the late 1960s.

He was also Texas’ athletic director from 1962 to 1980 before being inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

“No words are adequate to describe the impact Darrell Royal had on this state, the university, UT athletics and Texas football,” Texas Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds said Wednesday. “He was simply the foundation, the beginning. Anywhere you look today, on this campus, you see his fingerprints.”

Royal, who played quarterback for Oklahoma from 1946 to 1949, began his collegiate head coaching career as a 30-year-old at Mississippi State in 1954. He also coached Washington in 1956.

But he made his biggest mark at Texas, where he inherited a 1-9 team and turned in a 6-3-1 record in his first season in 1957, guiding the Longhorns to the first of 16 bowl appearances they’d make over the next 20 years.

His Longhorns topped the national polls in 1963 and 1969 with 11-0 records. In 1970, the 10-1 Texas squad claimed a share of the national title.

He never had a losing record in 23 seasons as a head college football coach, with a three-college record of 184-60-5.

The wishbone formation, the three-running-back set that Bellard debuted on a collegiate level at Texas under Royal’s guidance in 1968, helped the Longhorns go on a 30-game winning streak and spread to other colleges.

Dodds said Wednesday that the current Texas team would honor Royal during Saturday’s home game against Iowa State at his namesake Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

“I think [head coach] Mack Brown has said this, but our first play from scrimmage on Saturday will be out of the wishbone,” Dodds said.

Brown said he lost “a wonderful friend, a mentor, a confidant and my hero.”

“College football lost maybe its best ever, and the world lost a great man,” Brown said, according to a university release. “… His impact on the game, the coaches and players, the community and the millions of lives he touched, is insurmountable.”

Royal is survived by his wife, Edith, the university said.

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CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this report.