BOCA RATON, Fla. (CBSMiami.com) – When the final second ticks off the clock for Florida Atlantic’s game on Saturday, it will mark the end of a career that most coaches could never dream of in a million years.
Howard Schellenberger will walk off the sidelines for good Saturday with his head held high looking at the FAU program he built from the ground up.
But Schnellenberger’s legacy is much more than just Florida Atlantic. He has served under two of most iconic coaches in football history and built not only FAU’s program, but also the Miami Hurricanes.
When Schnellenberger was just an assistant coach, he learned the trade under Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. Howard was an offensive coordinator and Alabama won three national championships while he was there.
Schnellenberger first came to South Florida in 1970 when Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula brought him in as the team’s offensive coordinator. Schnellenberger was one of the coaches who helped the 1972 Dolphins to the only undefeated season in NFL history that ended with a Super Bowl win.
Schnellenberger followed that up by agreeing to take over the Miami Hurricanes program in 1979. The Canes’ football fortunes were saved as the team was in serious danger of being done away with by the administration.
Schnellenberger brought in a pro-style offense and quickly laid the foundation for the school’s first national championship in 1983. His leadership put Miami on the map and helped the school win multiple championships in the 1980’s.
After rebuilding the University of Louisville, he had a troubled stay at Oklahoma before coming to Florida Atlantic.
He built the FAU program from the ground up and led the Owls to their first Sun Belt Conference title in 2005. He also led the team to a New Orleans Bowl victory and a victory in the Motor City Bowl. Schnellenberger never lost a bowl game throughout all of his coaching stops.
This season is his worst in his 27 season career. But, his team mounted a great effort last week and broke a 10 game losing streak.
“To win the 11th game, to stop a 10-game losing streak, in your last year of coaching, after experiencing the joy of everybody associated with Florida Atlantic University and the opening of their new stadium … all that coupled with stopping the bleeding gave a ranking of joy, but with an altogether different feeling,” Schnellenberger said. “There was relief. There was joy. There was positive. There was a reprieve.”
He was also one of the most respected coaches in the history of the game by his fellow coaches.
“If Howard Schnellenberger had stayed for more time at the University of Miami,” former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden once said, “he would of had more championship rings than fingers to wear `em, know what I mean?”
Schnellenberger is expecting to see many people from his past, which might be the most important thing for him on Saturday.
“Life is full of symbolisms and ceremony,” Schnellenberger said. “Sports is a great opportunity for those things to have real meaning. And it’ll have real meaning for me and (his wife) Beverlee and the family. And it will be real meaning for those who come together who haven’t seen each other in time, whether it’ll be `Canes or Cardinals, whether it’ll be Dolphins or Colts. And there might even be a Roll Tide guy involved, maybe even a Ram.”
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