Fred Akers, who coached the Texas Longhorns football team for a decade and twice came within one victory of a national championship, died Monday of complications from dementia, his wife Diane Akers told the Austin American-Statesman. He was 82.
As head coach at Texas, Akers amassed an 86-31-2 record in 10 seasons. His 86 wins rank third on the school’s all-time victory list behind Darrell Royal (167 wins) and Mack Brown (158).
In 1977 and in 1983, his Longhorns completed perfect regular seasons and won Southwest Conference championships, only to fall in the Cotton Bowl both times — a 38-10 defeat to Notre Dame at the end of his first season, and a 10-9 loss to Georgia at the end of the 1983 campaign.
In 1981, the Longhorns finished 10-1-1 after beating Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, and they ended up No. 2 in the final polls.
Akers had suffered from dementia in recent years, and his wife made daily visits to his memory-care facility in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, she told the American-Statesman. She said during the summer that her visits were reduced to window visits through glass, owing to COVID-19 protocols.
Current Texas head coach Tom Herman said in a statement, “It’s a very sad day with the news of the passing of one of our Longhorn Legends in Coach Akers. In the opportunities I had to spend time with Coach, he was always so warm and gracious. The many, many great players he had at Texas have always shared such fond memories, too. He had tremendous success here and was a highly respected, all-time great in our coaching fraternity and beyond.”
Brown, currently the head coach at North Carolina, added in a statement, “Sally and I are deeply saddened to learn of Fred Akers passing. He was so kind to me. He was a great man, a wonderful football coach, and an excellent representative for the University of Texas.”
A native of Blytheville, Ark., Akers played football at the University of Arkansas and served as a graduate assistant there in 1960. He coached at Texas high schools in Port Arthur, Edinburg and Lubbock High before Royal added him to Texas’ staff as an assistant in 1966.
After nine seasons on Royal’s staff, Akers spent two years as Wyoming head coach (10-13) before returning to Austin, where his teams would play in nine bowl games. In 1986, the Longhorns went 5-6, and he was fired. Eventually he was hired to try to rebuild the Purdue program, but his Boilermakers teams went just 12-31-1 in four years.
Akers was enshrined in the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor in 2015 and both the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame in 2016.
-Field Level Media