A 52-year coaching career will come to an end at the conclusion of the 2011 season as Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Howard Schnellenberger is set to officially announce his retirement from football on Thursday.
After resurrecting the program and eventually winning a national championship with the Miami Hurricanes in 1983, Schnellenberger was tasked with starting a Florida Atlantic football team from scratch when he was hired by the school as director of football operations and eventual head coach in 1998.
The Owls began playing football in 2001 and have been coached by Schellenberger ever since. Now at 77-years-old, he will take his 57-63 all-time record at the school into his final season, which begins with a road game against the Florida Gators on Sept. 3.
Though Schellenberger has never beat Florida with his FAU team, a defeat he handed the Gators as coach of the Hurricanes in 1980 stays with him to this day.
In the final game of the 1980 season, Miami traveled to Florida and upended the Gators 31-7. However, a notable occurrence during the contest keeps the game in the minds of fans and football historians.
With a 21-7 lead, the Hurricanes tacked on a late touchdown to go ahead 28-7. Florida fans, who were incensed throughout the game, responded by throwing oranges and ice at Miami’s players, cheerleaders and coaches. Ticked off at the actions of the fans, Schellenberger (whose team had regained possession of the ball) called a timeout and kicked a field goal on the game’s last play, rubbing the loss in even more.
He has not had much luck playing in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since then. The Hurricanes were topped 17-14 in 1982 and routed 28-3 the following year. He returned to Florida with his Louisville team in 1992 and lost 31-17 before dropping a 59-20 final to the Gators with his Owls squad in 2007.
Schnellenberger has had a storied college coaching career and also spent some time in the NFL and USFL. He’s won a national championship, credited for recruiting Joe Namath to Alabama, and been honored by Louisville with a football complex that bears his name. Florida Atlantic will open a brand new on-campus football stadium in 2011, a goal of his from the first day he took the job.
While 2011 will be a year of celebrating Schnellenberger’s career – a time filled with honors and gifts and speeches – the one thing he is unlikely to earn is another victory at The Swamp, a venue that has had his number for the past 29 years.
Photo Credit: Associated Press