MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Friday, two teams will walk into Sun Life Stadium with one big thing in common, legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger.
The University of Miami will play Florida Atlantic University in a game that features one team Schnellenberger resurrected into a national power and another program that he started from scratch.
It’s the first game between the two schools on the gridiron and is the first in a three-game, four-year series.
“That was the genesis of the game, that we would celebrate what he has done for both programs, really starting both programs at the end of the day,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “He’s a man who owes me nothing but treats me with great respect and imparts great wisdom every time I see him. We’re blessed to have him in our family. I know FAU probably feels the same way.”
Schnellenberger will be the honorary captain for both teams and many of his former UM players will be on hand for the game.
“It’s a thrilling experience to see this series come to maturity now, come to pass,” Schnellenberger said. “It’s going to happen. We talked about this game for a long time. This is the birth of a very important rivalry series that’s about to unfold.”
Even though he follows Miami, he’s rooting for FAU.
“This is my team,” Schnellenberger said.
It’s hard to argue that FAU is literally the team that Howard built. He even helped spearhead the building of a brand new stadium on campus at FAU for the football team.
In a fun twist, FAU’s head coach, Carl Pelini is the brother of current Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers have a special role in UM football for the 1983 season when Miami beat Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl and claimed the school’s first national championship.
FAU coach Carl Pelini also has ties to the backstory behind this game. Not only did he replace Schnellenberger, the only other coach in FAU’s history, but he came to the Owls from Nebraska — where his brother Bo Pelini is the head coach.
“Coach Schnellenberger, he had an amazing career,” said Pelini, who also revealed that he sacked Bernie Kosar — Miami’s quarterback in that Orange Bowl — when they were high schoolers. “He built that program. It’s something that will go down in history as an amazing accomplishment, what he was able to do for Miami football and the university in general.”
Not only does Schnellenberger have direct ties to both schools, his historic career gives both institutions a connection to some of the most legendary coaches in football history.
Schnellenberger played for and later coached with Bear Bryant, recruited Joe Namath to Alabama and ran the offense as part of Don Shula’s staff for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team to finish an NFL season unbeaten.
He’s a living legend who walked the sidelines in South Florida for decades and helped build a national power at UM and a brand new program at FAU.
On Friday, he’ll be honored by both schools as he gets to see the fruits of a life dedicated to the gridiron.
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