Howard Schnellenberger, one of the legendary football coaches in the history of South Florida and all of sports, has passed away at age 87.
Countless historic stories stand out for Schnellenberger, but here are a few jaw-dropping; however, he would treat every single one as equal to the other, even the ones not mentioned.
Schnellenberger won a national championship with the Miami Hurricanes in 1983, their first in school history. He also worked extensively as an assistant coach at the college and pro levels, including the staff of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. He is also famous for having recruited Joe Namath to Alabama for Bear Bryant in 1961. Impressive is an understatement since his career was young at that point.
“Howard always allowed me to be a part of his football life,” said his late wife, Beverlee. “Watching him on the sidelines was an opportunity that gave us a special closeness – win or lose – that not many wives get. Even though he never smiled, he was always smiling in his heart. We loved all the moves and challenges. I will miss his warm heart, his warm hands, and soft kisses. Howard always treated me special, like a queen, and was truly a husband that every Canadian girl dreams of. You will always be my love, now and forever. I’m proud to be your wife. You were a great leader of men and the leader of our lives.”
He reshaped three football programs, starting with the Hurricanes, not “The U,” instead of a Hurricanes program in 1979 with zero history moreover on the verge of being eliminated. Hurricanes won the national championship upsetting Nebraska at the historic Orange Bowl in 1983, one of the greatest college football games of all-time.
“I don’t know there is Miami football with Howard Schnellenberger,” Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz said. “It is hard to imagine the state of this program when he came here. He came to the university, took down the establishment, and elevated the entire university to a different status.”
Schnellenberger rebuilt his hometown Louisville Cardinals football program when he took his talents to become head coach in 1985. He reconstructed a program that was in worse shape than Miami was when he took over. During his ten years as head coach, Louisville won a Fiesta Bowl, and Schnellenberger led the construction of an on-campus stadium. The current football complex bears his name.
I met Schnellenberger covering a Florida Atlantic University Owls football game. He wore his trademark sports coat, suspenders, and tie just like he did on the sidelines. He built an Owls program an hour away from Miami in Boca Raton, Florida, when it was an FCS school. He was selected as FAU’s director of football operations and would later decide to coach the team. After three years spent on the FCS level, they would become an FBS program.
The owls went to two bowl games, and he got an on-campus stadium built there too. When he retired in 2011, Schnellenberger had compiled an overall record of 158-151-3 undefeated in bowl games. The field at the stadium illustrates his name as well.
Coach Schnellenberger touched so many lives and left an impact upon those who were viewed by his steely blue eyes or addressed by his signature baritone voice. I sat with him for ten minutes, and he wanted to get to know me more. Unfortunately, I was on the clock and had to get back to work, and I can only imagine the amount of time he would have given me just for a conversation. We put together the signature “U” in the middle of a photo, I was grateful. His impact will be carried on through today’s leaders and through the strong men and women who were lucky to fall under his tutelage.