Schnellenberger begins swan song in The Swamp

By Adam Silverstein
August 11, 2011

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


  1. Daniel M. says:

    Incredible guy. What will his FAU legacy be? That he founded the program or that he got the stadium built?

    That stadium will bear his name I imagine and will keep him etched in the front of FAU fans minds. He worked tirelessly for years to finallly bring that project to reality.

    Who will be the next FAU head coach? Leach? Shannon? A Gruden? Probably none of those.

    • He’s legacy will be all-encompassing. It’s a South Florida legacy that started in Miami and ended up in Boca. Maybe Howard Schnellenberger Field, is my assumption, with the stadium getting a different name.

      I don’t see Shannon or a Gruden, but they have to get either a big name or a really, really talented young coach.

      • Tractorr says:

        Yeah people really need to give it a rest with Gruden already. I really don’t think this guy is interested in coaching college. I can almost guarantee you that bigger, better fund, and more prestigious universities have called him and he hasn’t taken a college job. I am pretty sure IF he ever coaches again it will be in the pros.

        • Daniel M. says:

          There are plenty of former NFL coaches who have chosen college ball because, relatively speaking, they can still have a life in the college ranks. Gruden is a football junkie so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him go either way sooner than later. That said, it’s hard to imagine anyone stepping away from the completely cushy ESPN analyst gig. They get right next to the glory without the grind.

      • SC Gator says:

        Well there is a certain pirate hanging out in Key West that might be up for the job…

        Normally, these days, the big money sponsor gets the stadium name and the coach gets the field or the facility but if there is a coach who could buck that trend it would be Schnelly.

  2. TheSwamp says:

    No matter who their coach is, they’ll have to out-recruit USF, UCF, and FIU to make some noise in this state.

  3. zurbo says:

    Well send him out with an ass beating

  4. CeeThree says:

    if Urban is going to get back into coaching, I’ve always thought this type of job would be the perfect fit. The lower expectations, and significantly less media coverage, and what not, would lead to less stress. Plus FAU’s recruiting base doesn’t stretch nearly as far, and he’s still relatively close to his kids (Ga Tech & FGCU). He wouldn’t have to completely uproot everything, and in a smaller environment could be left to do what he loves, coach football, and not deal with all the “stuff.”

  5. Daniel M. says:

    Looks like Greg Stoda swung by OGGOA before penning his story for today.

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