MIAMI – Howard Schnellenberger was a pipe smoker with a push-broom mustache and gruff baritone, and he paired his grandiloquent manner with grandiose visions for football at Miami, Louisville and Florida Atlantic that caused snickers.
At all three schools, Schnellenberger disproved doubters. He revived the sport at Miami and Louisville and started the program at Florida Atlantic during a coaching career that spanned a half century.
Schnellenberger died Saturday at 87 in Boca Raton, Florida. FAU announced his death and said he recently had been in a care center.
Schnellenberger had a career record below .500, but when it came to building, he was a winner. His legacy includes on-campus stadiums at Louisville and Florida Atlantic.
He led the Miami Hurricanes to the first of their five national championships in 1983, and coached Louisville to a Fiesta Bowl win over Alabama to cap the 1990 season. He then founded the program at Florida Atlantic and retired as coach after 11 seasons highlighted by back-to-back bowl victories.
Everywhere Schnellenberger coached, he envisioned a winning team as a unifying force, the way it was with the ’83 Hurricanes.
“I think it all goes back to the day they had a parade in Miami for the national championship team,” he once said. “I saw the people on the sidelines — black families, Cuban families, Hispanics and Anglo families — all there, 100,000 strong, celebrating their ball team and community. That football team was able to do something the federal government, city and county tried to do and couldn’t: bring the community together.”
Schnellenberger’s career bowl record was 6-0, and he experienced perfection in the NFL, too. He was the offensive coordinator under Don Shula for the Miami Dolphins in 1972, when they won the Super Bowl to finish 17-0 for the NFL’s only undefeated, untied season.