Friday, November 09, 2012



As a general rule, successful organizations are headed by folks who are either "concept" people or "detail" people. Coach Royal was one of those unusual folks who is both. Well before anyone had conceived of the huge pyramidal organizations that are now commonplace in college football, Coach Royal visualized and built the prototype at the University of Texas.

In order to do that, he had to first conceive of it and then to figure out in detail how it could be operated without a global loss of control. Before most other coaches accepted the simple truth that the boosters were the consumer and the players were the best barometer of morale, Coach made a point of staying in touch with those two constituencies. This had the effect of creating a groundwork for what is now the highest grossing athletic department in college athletics.

In addition to this considerable and groundbreaking set of talents, Darrell Royal was a modern American philosopher. One of the reasons I attend continuing education and skills training is the Darrell Royal quote that hangs on my wall: "Luck -- is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Of course, as coach freely admitted, this is not original material but a paraphrase from Napoleon, Bud Wilkinson and even Woody Hayes.

It is fair to say that Darrell Royal was a man of great power. I was privileged, quite by accident, to spend a day with him totally out of the limelight. He was earnest, humble and thoughtful. You would never have guessed that he was held in awe in the Southwest.  Much of what he thought, he stated in the form of a question ("Do you find it difficult to get a clean hit on the ball from dormant Bermuda?"  [after he fluffed a pitch shot]). He was careful never to interrupt anyone else, always waiting until the speaker had completed a thought.

In short, I felt coach to be an incurably positive guy. That's a tough thing for the world to lose. There are simply not enough of them around.  I count myself lucky to have known him, if only fleetingly.


I literally met Mr. Flick over breakfast.  I was eating at a golf course in Southern California and the grill room was crowded.  I was alone at a four top table and he asked if he could join meHe introduced himself and I did the same, but I already knew who he was.  I was eating already and he quickly ordered his food.  After he ordered, he asked what I did for a living and I told him.  He asked me how much I read in conjunction with my work and how often I needed math skills.  He asked about the Mississippi.  He asked about the Cubs.  He was tremendously inquisitive and seemed interested in the importance of teaching (children, not golf.).  It was a fun talk.

More than anything I was impressed by how fit and stylish he was.  He was not teaching that day and yet he could have looked good in a photo shoot: muted plaid pants, dark red cardigan, bone white shirt and highly polished white teaching shoes.  He was not  young then but, even if one didn't know he was a celebrity,  one look and  you would know he was special.  Pride in one's work is a big loss but I understand Mr. Flick has passed it on to many teachers over his lifetime.  Another loss during this historic week.



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