The oldest of us and fans of NFL history remember him for his mustache that has turned white over the years and for his legendary pipe and been the offensive coordinator of the famous Miami Dolphins team. During the “Perfect Season” of 1972.
But Howard Schnellenberger became a coaching legend when he rose to the NCAA level. Over 35 years of service and a legendary journey that has never been fully recognized.
Without him, there may never have been the outbreak of the Miami program on the national stage.
Admittedly, his overall career record (158-151-3 in 27 university seasons) is not the most impressive. Still, when he aimed to rebuild dying programs, he always worked miracles! Without him, the current stadiums in Louisville and Florida Atlantic would probably not exist.
Wherever he’s been, Howard Schnellenberger has found success. In 1983, he led the Hurricanes to their first national championship title. That year, Miami surprised everyone with a 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. It is still recognized as one of the most famous games in history.
However, in 1979, the University of Miami wondered if it would not be wiser to abandon the football program as he had been dying for years. A few years later, quarterbacks like Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, and Mark Richt (who will become head coach of the Hurricanes in 2018) have emerged thanks to Howard Schnellenberger. And in his 2nd season with the Canes, the latter got his hands on the Peach Bowl, then relaunching a South Florida program that will be part of the national elite for 20 years.
After a stint in the United States Football League (USFL), he took over the Louisville Cardinals. Finally, he founded the Florida Atlantic University football program with which he was the Sun Belt Conference champion in 2007. The Owls stadium bears his name today.
In 2011, after 50 years on the sidelines, Howard Schnellenberger retired after two consecutive seasons concluded with bowl game victories.
With a Super Bowl winner’s ring and a league title with the Hurricanes, he is one of the only coaches in history to be crowned champion in the NFL and at the college level.
In 1985, he accepted the challenge offered by Louisville. As soon as he arrived, he announced that he wanted to make the Cardinals a Top 25 team and planned to build a new stadium. He also promised to revive the rivalry with neighbor Kentucky. All of this has indeed happened. The 1990 season was his masterpiece with the Cards: a 10-1-1 record and a victory against Alabama in the Liberty Bowl.
The only downside: his visit to Oklahoma in 1995. A disaster. A record of 5-5-1 for an experience that will last only one season.
It was then that he bounced back to Boca-Raton (Florida): he managed to convince Florida Atlantic University to embark on the adventure of College Football! The team played their first game in 2001, then the Owls won a Sun Belt Conference title, and two straight bowl game wins (2010, 2011).