Royal Retrospective: Board of Regents orders integration of UT athletics


Original date of publication: Nov. 19, 1963

Integrated athletics at Texas became a token reality Monday with the Athletic Council’s adoption of the Board of Regents edict to “remove all student restrictions of any kind and character based on race or color...”

Darrell Royal, athletic director and head football coach, made the announcement at his weekly press conference.

“The Athletic Council met the administration this morning and decided that any Negro student who meets academic and athletic requirements is eligible to try out for any sports as of this moment,” Royal said.

Royal did not single out an individual to break the color line in his recruiting plans, but said, “We will recruit those Negroes that fit into our program.”

Idealistically, any Negro male in the University who met the standards could now come out for any sport, but the odds of his soon cracking the team would be somewhat extreme, except possibly in track.

Basketball, for instance, is the most pressing sport at the moment with three starters injured, but the Longhorns have been in practice sessions for five weeks. Anybody starting this late would almost have to be all-American caliber.

“The first boy who plays for Texas will really have to be something special to do anything for his race,” a Texas coach said on Monday. ”He must be a fine athlete as well as have the ability to take jibes and ridicule.”

The most comparable integration occurred at the University of Oklahoma in 1956 when Prentice Gautt was hand-picked to break the color line.

Since that time, OU has had only a handful of Negro players.

The most serous problem to be faced at the moment is that of housing, since Negro students can’t live in Moore-Hill Hall, the dormitory for athletes.

Royal pointed out that some single team members as well as married athletes don’t live there anyway.

“We have single boys who play sports living in other residences now,” he said.

Still the housing question has left some coaches with qualms about recruiting.

“They [the Board of Regents] have dumped this thing in our laps, but I don’t think we can do much for some time. The biggest emphasis will be in basketball and track, however.”

The Board of Regents, pressed since 1961 by a student referendum approving integration, unanimously approved it Nov. 9 when they removed all 11 restrictions “heretofore imposed by the Board of Regents.”

Although no other Southwest Conference school has played a Negro athlete, according to Associated Press reports, a Southern Methodist University spokesman said Monday there were no restrictions to keep a Negro from becoming a Mustang.

This action by Texas apparently brings to an end the “gentlemen’s agreement” that supposedly existed between Southwest Conference coaches. This was spotlighted several years ago when Junior Cofee, and all-stater in football and basketball, said he wanted to come to Texas.

After a much-publicized recruiting period, Coffee went to Washington University,

Texas is the home state of some of the world’s most famous Negro athletes, including baseball’s Ernie Banks, football’s Abner Haynes and Kick “Night Train” Lane, and Olympics champion Rafer Johnson.

The University is now completely integrated except for most University dormitories.

Read the second Royal Retrospective, "Longhorns begin Royal era," here.