Coach Fred Akers is the man who turned “The Yellow Rose of Texas, Earl Campbell loose, and Fred Akers died on Monday at age 82…..
Fred Akers lived in the shadow of Darrell Royal, at the University of Texas, but Fred Akers is still one of the top football coaches in the history of the University of Texas football…..
Fred Akers, who succeeded Darrell Royal as Texas head football coach and twice came within a bowl victory of a national championship, died of complications from dementia on Monday, his wife, Diane, said.
He was 82.
The Blytheville, Ark., native relied on great defense and special teams to carve out an impressive 86-31-2 record with the Longhorns but could never rally a fickle fan base that had wanted Royal’s defensive coordinator, Mike Campbell, to replace him after the 1976 season.
Akers was fired by Texas after the 1986 season, in which the Longhorns went 5-6 — the school’s first losing season in 30 years. He took the Purdue job for four seasons before retiring. He posted a record of 108-75-3 in 16 seasons, including two years at Wyoming.
Akers, who lived in Horseshoe Bay and is survived by his wife, was a star player at Arkansas as a halfback, punter and kicker. He became one of the youngest high school football head coaches in Texas when he took a job in Edinburg at age 24. When he was interviewed for the job, school officials asked him about his youth, and he replied, “Are you wanting a head coach or to fill out an age requirement?”
That said, Akers started fast out of the gate, riding the momentum of an 8-4 season at Wyoming and a Fiesta Bowl appearance to persuade UT President Lorene Rogers and UT System Board of Regents Chairman Allan Shivers to hire him. The two clashed with the Royal faction and chose the dapper, buttoned-down Akers after tiring of Royal’s recruiting failures against Oklahoma and association with the country-western crowd.
Akers abandoned the option offense for a more progressive I-formation, and Heisman Trophy-winning junior tailback Earl Campbell and a strong defense paced by All-America defensive tackle Brad Shearer carried the Longhorns to a perfect regular season and No. 1 national ranking. UT finished 11-1 after a painful 38-10 loss to fifth-ranked Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl cost the Longhorns their fourth national championship.
Akers came close again in 1983 with one of the best defenses in school history, led by All-America safety Jerry Gray and linebacker Jeff Leiding.
For the second time, his team swept through the regular season without a blemish, but a loss to No. 7 Georgia 10-9 in the Cotton Bowl denied Texas the national title. Defensive back Craig Curry’s fumbled punt inside the Texas 20 led to the game’s only touchdown.