Howard Schnellenberger, Legendary College Football Coach, Dead at 87
Howard Schnellenberger, legendary former head coach of the University of Miami, responsible for building multiple college football programs from the ground up, has passed away at age 87, per an announcement from Florida Atlantic University.
Schnellenberger got his coaching start with his alma mater, the University of Kentucky, working as an assistant before moving on to join Bear Bryant's staff at Alabama as an offensive coordinator.
In his time in Tuscaloosa, Schnellenberger was a part of three national championship teams in '61, '64 and '65. His offense, in '61 alone, outscored opponents 297-25 over the course of an undefeated 11-0 season.
From the Crimson Tide, Schnellenberger moved on to the NFL and found himself hired by Don Shula to lead the Dolphins offense from 1970-72. A crucial piece of the Dolphins' perfect season in 1972, Schnellenberger was soon given the head coaching job for the Baltimore Colts.
A short stint as head coach in Baltimore that saw him go just 4-13 was ended after Schnellenberger was let go following disagreements with ownership. Despite an unsuccessful run as a head coach in the NFL, the already established coordinator made his way back to the Dolphins and was eventually hired by the University of Miami three years later.
In just four years at Miami, coaching the Hurricanes, Schnellenberger took a program that had nearly been dropped by the University a few years prior and turned them into national champions by 1983. Schnellenberger developed revolutionary recruiting techniques, focusing heavily on prospects within the "State of Miami".
The groundwork he laid at "The U" allowed those who took over after him, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erikson, to continue winning championships and dominate the college football landscape for many years to come.
While his time in Miami may have been what the legendary coach and contributor to the game was most recognized for, Schnellenberger was the catalyst for many other football programs throughout his career.
In 1985, fresh off a failed experiment with the USFL, Schnellenberger returned to his hometown of Louisville to head the Cardinals football team. Inheriting a program in worse condition than the one he was handed at Miami, he worked diligently to turn the program around. After three losing seasons to begin his career with the Cardinals, the team began to flourish, going 24-9-1 over the next three years, even defeating Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl.
After Louisville's decision to join Conference USA rather than remain an independent, Schnellenberger left the program for Oklahoma where he coached just one season in 1995. Despite leaving Louisville in 1994, once construction of their football complex was completed in 2006, it was named in his honor due to the project being started and supported during his time with the program.
After the short stint with the Sooners, Schnellenberger took a brief hiatus from the game and returned in 1998 as the director of football operations for Florida Atlantic University in which he was tasked with one job: creating a football program from scratch.
Schnellenberger raised $13 million in funding for the new program and took over as it's first coach in 2001. The Owls spent four years at the Division 1-AA level, but were brought up to Division 1-A in 2005. From the beginning, the goal of bringing the team to the highest level of college was Schnellenberger's number one goal and he achieved it in just four years.
In just its' second season in the Sun Belt conference, the FAU Owls took home the 2007 conference title, also earning the program's first ever bowl bid and victory. Schnellenberger announced his retirement from coaching in 2011, following a season that saw the program break ground on all new stadium that would go on to be named in his honor.
The existence of a football program for Florida Atlantic University can be entirely credited to Schnellenberger who literally built it from nothing. In a 2007 interview with ESPN, Schnellenberger, when asked whether FAU was different from other programs he'd helped build, said, "This one is so different. The others, we were working with adopted kids. These were our kids."
While the record books may not reflect it, what Howard Schnellenberger did for the game of college football cannot go unnoticed. He was a key piece in building several respected program across the country and completely revolutionized how programs looked at recruiting. His influence can be felt in every aspect of the game, ranging from how he coached to how he ran his programs.
The world of college football lost a legendary figure, but the work he did and influence he had on the game will carry on forever.