Howard Schnellenberger

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Howard Schnellenberger
Howard Schnellenberger
TitleHead Coach
CollegeFlorida Atlantic University
Team Record33-37
B-dateMarch 16, 1934
B-placeLouisville, KY
Career Highlights
Overall4-13 (NFL)

133-114-3 (College)

Bowl Games5 (5-0)
  • 2007 Sun Belt Coach of the Year
  • 1983 National Championship (AP, Coach's)
Prior to Coaching
Coaching Record
  • 2001-present - FAU
  • 1995 - Oklahoma
  • 1985-1994 - Louisville
  • 1979-1983 - Miami
  • 1975-1979 - Miami Dolphins (OC)
  • 1973-1974 - Baltimore Colts
  • 1970-1972 - Miami Dolphins (OC)
  • 1966-1969 - Los Angeles Rams (OC)
  • 1961-1965 - Alabama (OC)

Howard Schnellenberger (born March 16, 1934 in Louisville, KY) is the head football coach of the Florida Atlantic University Owls in the NCAA college football tournament. Prior to his stint with the young Florida Atlantic football program, Schnellenberger had coached a handful of other teams inluding Miami's national championship team and Louisville, programs he developed under his tutelage. Schnellenberger, a coach dubbed as an ultimate builder and ultimate dreamer, now has an overall record of 133-114-3.


Personal Life

Howard is married to Beverlee (née Donnelly) for over 40 years after the two met when Howard was still playing for the Toronto Argonauts. The couple had three sons, namely Stephen, Stuart and Tim. His grandchildren are Teather Ann (a Miami Dolphins cheerleader), Joey and Marcus. His son Stuart played football for him and was part of his 1983 national championship team. His eldest son Stephen passed away on March 9, 2008 at the age of 48. Stephen, who despite of his sickness was able to earn a University of Miami business degree and build a successful career as an insurance broker and computer salesman, was diagnosed at the age of 2 with a rare endocrine disease and had undergone operations to remove his thyroid and adrenal glands and a kidney. During a 2003 surgery, his heart stopped and he suffered brain damage that left him in a semi-comatose state until his passing.

Among the coach's "trademarks" include his gravelly baritone voice, his trademark pipe (which he gave up after his son was diagnosed with cancer), his unique-looking suede jacket and a conservative striped tie which he used to wear during his tenure at Miami and Louisville, and his colorful press conference quotes which resulted to a featured section in the Louisville Eccentric Observer called the "SchnellSpeak of the Week".

Playing Career


After graduating from Flaget High School in Louisville, Kentucky where he played football, basketball and baseball, Schnellenberger attended the University of Kentucky in the 1950's and became an All-American tight end under head football coach and renowned mentor Bear Bryant and later on under Blanton Collier.

Assistant Coaching Career


Schnellenberger kicked off his coaching career at his alma mater of UK, serving as an assistant head coach to Collier from 1959-1960, during which the Wildcats went 9-10-1 in that span. He also joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity during that time.


In 1961, Schnellenberger reunited with Bryant at Alabama and served as an offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide. That year, he helped the Tide offense outscore their opponents 297-25 (27 ppg) as Alabama went undefeated in 11 outings, that include a victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl to claim both a share of the Southeastern Conference championship and the national championship. Alabama consistently outscored their opponents during Schnellenberger's stint at Bama, to the tune of 289-39 in 1962, 227-95 in 1963, 250-88 in 1964, and 256-107 in 1965, with the latter two seasons producing two more national championships for the team.

Los Angeles Rams (NFL)

After three national titles with the Tide, Schnellenberger brought his offensive coaching skills to the next level with a job at the Los Angeles Rams camp in the National Football League. There he worked with head coach George Allen for four seasons, from 1966 through 1969. During his NFL debut, the Rams went 8-6 and improved dramatically on their offensive stats in terms of scoring (from 19.2 to 20.6), total yards (298.5 to 305.8), pass attempts (445 to 450), pass completions (230 to 249), rushing attempts (378 to 448), rushing yards (1464 to 1742), and scoring runs (from 8 to 12). In 1967, the Rams improved to a 11-1-2 record which was good for a 1st place finish in the Western Coastal. In 1968, the Rams relinquished the top spot of the Western Coastal to the Baltimore Colts, but nevertheless finished with a respectable 10-3-1 record. In his last season with the Rams, Schnellenberger helped the team reclaim the top spot in the Western Coastal with an 11-3 record with L.A. quarterback Roman Gabriel earning the NFL MVP award.

Miami Dolphins (NFL)

The Miami Dolphins acquired Schnellenberger's services in 1970, serving as an assistant to Don Shula in the franchise's first year in the NFL. The Dolphins qualified in the AFC Divisional Playoffs on their first attempt and finished the year with a 10-4 record. The following year, Miami improved to a 10-3-1 standing which include wins over Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Colts in the conference playoffs before losing to the Dallas Cowboys, 3-24 in the Super Bowl VI. In 1972, Miami returned to the Super Bowl and this time, claimed their first NFL title over the Washington Redskins, 14-7 to finish the year undefeated in 14 games.

Schnellenberger reunited with Shula in 1975 and helped the Dolphins to a 10-4 finish that season, 6-8 in 1976, 10-4 in 1977, 11-5 and an AFC Wild-Card Playoff appearance in 1978, and a 10-6 with an AFC Divisional Playoff stint in 1979.

Coaching Career

Baltimore Colts (NFL)

His success with Miami led to his first head coaching gig, mentoring the Baltimore Colts in 1973. It was however a disastrous head coaching debut as the Colts went 4-10 in his first year before starting the 1974 season winless in three occassions. The lone bright spot for him as the Colts' coach was the team's upset of Miami towards the end of the 1973 season. In his last game with Baltimore, team owner Robert Irsay confronted him at halftime to demand a quarterback change. When Schnellenberger refused and told Irsay to go back upstairs, the owner fired him on the spot. The coach however, unintimidated, ignored his firing and told Irsay to wait until the game was over. He did leave after the game and was replaced by Joe Thomas for the rest of the year (Thomas had a 2-9 record to finish the season).

Miami (Fla.)

After his second stint with the Dolphins, Schnellenberger took over a struggling University of Miami football program which had been ran by five different coaches in the 1970s alone before his hiring in 1979. Nevertheless, Schnellenberger took on the challenge and molded a team spearheaded by quarterback Jim Kelly from near extinction into national prominence. During the early stages of the program's development, Schnellenberger implemented a pro-style attack which would later on pay-off. He also revolutionized recruiting South Florida high school talent by building a metaphorical "fence around Miami" and recruiting only in the "State of South Florida." Under his "State of Miami" plan, Schnellenberger's teams took the best from the three-county area around the city, went after the state's best, then aimed at targets among the nation's elite recruits; it became a model of how to recruit in college football.

After going 5-6 in his Miami debut, the Hurricanes improved to 9-3 in 1980 (including a 20-10 win over Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl), 9-2 in 1981, 7-4 in 1982, and culminated with an 11-1 standing in 1983. Miami's national title campaign was capped with a shocking win over then-undefeated Nebraska, anchored by Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier, 31-30 in the Orange Bowl. With Schnellenberger at the helm, the 'Canes lost only two home games in five years. Schnellenberger is also credited for practically laying down the team's groundwork for incoming head coach Jimmy Johnson after he left.

South Florida (USFL)

Schnellenberger's successful campaign in Miami paved the way for his supposed transition to the United States Football League to coach what was to be a South Florida team (a relocated Washington Federals franchise). But with the USFL's announcement of a shift to fall schedule, the Federals' owner backed out of the deal and Schnellenberger's USFL career never took off after the new backer decided not to retain him.


Schnellenberger decided to return to his hometown and coach another struggling school which for awhile, had contemplated on downgrading its football program to I-AA status. Louisville has not recorded a winning season since Vince Gibson's 1978 football squad that went 7-4 and at that time, the Cardinals were only playing at a minor-league baseball stadium with game tickets given away for free by the school at convenience stores for filling a tank of gas. But the recently hired Schnellenberger delivered a shocking proclamation, stating that the program "is on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time."

It didn't look that way on his debut as the Cardinals failed to improve on its 2-9 record in 1984, with wins only against Western Kentucky and Central Florida. The following season, the Cardinals improved to 3-8, then to 3-7-1 in 1987, before a breakthrough year in 1988 that resulted in an 8-3 record. In 1989, Louisville went 6-5 and faced Syracuse in the Coco-Cola Classic, losing 13-24. In 1990, Schnellenberger's squad posted a 10-1-1 record capped by the team's first bowl game appearance in over ten years. The Cardinals went on and defeated the Tide of Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl to wound up 12th in the national rankings. In 1993, the Cardinals rebounded from back-to-back losing seasons and win one in the Liberty Bowl against Michigan State to post a 9-3 record. In ten seasons at U of L, Schnellenberger was 54-56-2, but more importantly, he breathed new life to the football program that went on and win nine straight bowl games from 1998 to 2006, and gave the team a stadium aptly named after him, the Howard L. Schnellenberger Football Complex at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.


In late 1994, Schnellenberger was hired to coach the Oklahoma Sooners in lieu of Gary Gibbs who was forced to resign after that year. His confidence level from his previous success at Louisville did not waver as he went on to proclaim that "They'll write books and make movies about my time here." He also traveled across the state, with the stated goal of renewing the enthusiasm in what he called "Sooner Nation." He went on to "stir" things up as well as after getting his first glance at his future Sooner squad, he would declare them "out of shape, unorganized and unmotivated" and that they disgraced Oklahoma's rich football tradition.

Schnellenberger looked to make another prophecy come true as the Sooners zoomed to a 3-0 start at the beginning of the season. A loss to Colorado, and three more to end the season that include shut-out losses to Oklahoma State (first loss to their in-state rival in 20 years) and Nebraska delivered a knockout blow to the veteran coach as the Sooners finished the year 5-5-1 and a 2-5 league standing which was the first losing record for the program in conference play in 31 years.

With the unexpected turnout, Schnellenberger resigned on December 19, 1995, stating that "in recent months a climate has developed toward the program, understandably in some cases and perhaps unfairly in others, that has changed my outlook on the situation. A change could help improve that climate." Unlike in his previous tour of duty at U of L where despite an overall losing record he was still highly regarded because of his accomplishments, Schnellenberger failed to win over OU fans because he himself made no secret of his disinterest in Oklahoma's football history---ordering the destruction of several old football files which were actually preserved without his knowledge and once stating that he would put together a team that will make the "Sooner Nation" forget about legendary coaches Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer.

He took a hiatus on football after his OU tenure and decided to take the bond salesman's exam thrice (passing on the 3rd one), saying "I realized I didn't know crap about the market. I could not in good conscience advise anybody of anything."

Florida Atlantic

In 1998, Schnellenberger made his return to football via a job at the Florida Atlantic University as the director of football operations. At 64, he chanced upon helping FAU start its program from scratch as he was tasked in charged of coming up with a strategic plan, raising funds and selecting a coach. He raised $13 million in pledges, lobbied the state legislature, and by the time then FAU President Anthony Catanese asked him to find a coach in 1999, Schnellenberger selected himself. Schnellenberger described his interest in FAU by noting "This one is so different. The others, we were working with adopted kids. These were our kids."

The Owl team started practice in 2000 with 160 walk-ons and 22 scholarship players. Then competing in Division I-AA, Schnellenberger's team debuted against Slippery Rock and lost big, 7-40, with 13 of the team's starters not able to play after the FAU administration failed to certify them. A week later, the team was off and running and the team went on to defeat the No. 22 team in I-AA, Bethune-Cookman, 31-28. In his debut season, the Owls went 4-6, suffered another losing season in 2002 at 2-9, before making a 9-game turnaround in 2003 and making to their first Division I-AA playoffs, losing to Colgate in the Semifinals.

In his fourth season, FAU became a transitional member of I-A and posted a 9-3 record. In 2005, the team joined the Sun Belt Conference but performed poorly, winning only twice against Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas. Another losing season ensued in 2006, starting the year with 4 straight defeats before bowing with a 5-7 overall record. In 2007, the team finally made its mark and won a share of the league title then went on to appear in its maiden bowl game, defeating Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl, 44-27.

Aside from building a competitive football program from scratch, Schnellenberger has also spearheaded the construction of the Owls' own campus stadium, a 30,000 seater, which is set to open in 2010.


FAU's Biggest Cheerleader is no other than their own head football coach, Howard Schnellenberger.


Year School Record Conference Standing Bowl Notes
FAU Owls Division I-AA Independent (2001 — 2004)
2001 FAU 4-6        
2002 FAU 2-9        
2003 FAU 11-3        
2004 FAU 9-3        
FAU Owls Sun Belt Conference (2005 — present)
2005 FAU 2-9 2-5 T - 7th    
2006 FAU 5-7 4-3 4th    
2007 FAU 8-5 6-1 T - 1st W - New Orleans Bowl  
FAU 41-42 12-9  


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