American Football Wiki
Howard Schnellenberger
Schnellenberger as FAU head coach
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1934-03-16)March 16, 1934
Place of birth Saint Meinrad, Indiana, U.S.
Died March 27, 2021(2021-03-27) (aged 87)
Place of death Boca Rotan, Florida, U.S.
Playing career
1952–1956 Kentucky
Position(s) End
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Kentucky (ends)
Alabama (OC)
Los Angeles Rams (ends)
Miami Dolphins (OC)
Baltimore Colts
Miami Dolphins (OC)
Miami (FL)
Florida Atlantic
Head coaching record
Overall 158–151–3 (college)
4–13 (NFL)
Bowls 6–0
Tournaments 2–1 (NCAA D-I-AA playoffs)
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
1 National (1983)
1 Sun Belt (2007)
Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1983)
Career player statistics (if any)'

Howard Schnellenberger (March 16, 1934 - March 27, 2021) was a former college football coach, having led the Miami (FL) Hurricanes, Louisville Cardinals and Florida Atlantic Owls. He also previously held head coaching positions with the University of Oklahoma and the Baltimore Colts, and worked as an assistant coach at the college and pro levels, including as part of the staff of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. Schnellenberger was also famous for recruiting Joe Namath to the University of Alabama for Bear Bryant in 1961.

Early football career

Schnellenberger was born to German immigrants.[1] Schnellenberger graduated from Flaget High School in Louisville, Kentucky, where he played football, basketball and baseball before earning a scholarship to the University of Kentucky.[2] Schnellenberger was an All-American (AP, 1955) end at Kentucky and worked as an assistant coach at Kentucky under head coach Blanton Collier in 1959 and 1960. There he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Schnellenberger also served as offensive coordinator under his college coach Bear Bryant at Alabama, helped Alabama to win three national championships in 1961, 1964 and 1965 before leaving in 1966 to take a job in the NFL as receivers coach of the Los Angeles Rams under George Allen, then was hired by Don Shula in 1970 to become the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and parlaying the success of Miami's 1972 perfect season into becoming the new head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1973.

Baltimore Colts

Schnellenberger's Colts went 4-10 in his one full season but managed to pull an upset on the defending Super Bowl Champion Dolphins towards the end of the 1973 season, though the Dolphins's second-team played most of the game. After the Colts started the 1974 season 0-3, Schnellenberger was fired and replaced by Joe Thomas. He returned to the Dolphins coaching staff the following year and remained there until he was offered the head coaching job at the University of Miami.


Schnellenberger arrived to a Miami program that was on its last legs, with the program having almost been dropped by the university just a few years prior. Drawing from the boot camp methodology learned from mentors Bryant and Shula and a pro-style pass-oriented playbook not yet the norm in Division I college football, Miami developed a passing game that allowed them to have advantage over teams not equipped to defend such an attack. By his third season at Miami, the team had finished the season in the AP Poll top 25 twice—something that had not happened there since 1966.

Schnellenberger revolutionized recruiting South Florida high school talent by building a metaphorical "fence around Miami" and recruiting only the "State of South Florida." His eye for talent in this area led to many programs around the nation paying greater attention to south Florida high school prospects. 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.[3][4][5]

He coached Miami to a National Championship in 1983, defeating Nebraska in the 50th Orange Bowl. Following the season, Schnellenberger departed for the USFL where he was to become the head coach of a Miami-based team—a relocated Washington Federals franchise. Not long after that announcement, however, the USFL announced that it would shift to a fall schedule. The owner-to-be for the Federals backed out of the deal, knowing he could not hope to compete head-to-head with the Miami Dolphins. A new backer moved the team to Orlando as the Renegades and decided not to retain Schnellenberger.

Schnellenberger was interviewed about his time at the University of Miami for the documentary The U, which premiered December 12, 2009 on ESPN.


File:Papa john's cardinal stadium.jpg

The Howard L. Schnellenberger Football Complex at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium

In 1985, Schnellenberger returned to his hometown to coach another struggling program, the Louisville Cardinals. Schnellenberger inherited a situation that was as bad, if not worse, than what he'd inherited at Miami. The Cardinals had not had a winning season since 1978, and only two winning records in the previous 12 years. They played at Cardinal Stadium, a minor-league baseball stadium, and often hosted crowds so small that the school was forced to give tickets away. They also played in the long shadow of the school's powerful men's basketball team.[6] The situation was so grave at Louisville that officials were considering dropping the football program down to I-AA. Nonetheless, at his opening press conference, he stunned reporters and fans by proclaiming the program "is on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time."[6][7]

After going 8–24–1 in his first three years, Schnellenberger was able to turn the program around and go 24–9–1 the next three seasons. In 10 years, he led the Cardinals to their fourth and fifth bowl games in school history. They won them both, including an unprecedented 34–7 thrashing of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl, capping a 10–1–1 season and the school's first-ever appearance in a final poll (11th). The Fiesta Bowl appearance was the school's first-ever New Year's Day bowl game.[6]

Although Schnellenberger's record at Louisville was two games under .500 (largely due to his first three years), he has remained in the good graces of Cardinal fans due to the awful state the program was in when he arrived, giving him a justly-deserved reputation as a "program builder." He is also credited with laying the foundation for the program's subsequent rise to national prominence. The Cardinals went to nine straight bowl games from 1998 to 2006 and were in the national title hunt for much of 2005 and 2006. The Howard L. Schnellenberger Football Complex at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is named after him; Schnellenberger initially proposed building the on-campus stadium during his tenure at Louisville and is credited with keeping the project alive.[6]


Late in the 1994 season, Oklahoma head coach Gary Gibbs was forced to resign, but was allowed to finish out the season. Schnellenberger was hired to replace him on December 16, 1994.[8] Repeating his bluster upon taking the Louisville job, Schnellenberger declared, "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." After watching his new team for the first time in the 1994 Copper Bowl (in which Oklahoma was routed by BYU 31–6), he alienated his soon-to-be players by declaring them "out of shape, unorganized and unmotivated" and that they disgraced Oklahoma's rich football tradition.[9]

After a 3–0 start that had the Sooners ranked in the top 10, it quickly came unraveled after a 38–17 loss to Colorado on ESPN. That was the start of a stretch where the Sooners only went 2–5–1 the rest of the way, including a 2–5 record in conference play—Oklahoma's first losing record in conference play in 31 years, and only the second since World War II. They were also defeated 12–0 by Oklahoma State—the Sooners' first loss to their in-state rival in 20 years. En route, the Sooners were penalized nine times per game, which is very unusual since Schnellenberger has traditionally coached very disciplined teams. The Sooners closed out the season with their second-straight shutout, a 37-0 loss at No. 1 1995 Nebraska, which prevented Oklahoma from attaining a winning season or a bowl venue.

On December 19, 1995, Schnellenberger resigned unexpectedly after one season, 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."[10]

To this day, Schnellenberger is not held in high regard by Sooner fans, in part because he made no secret of his lack of interest in Oklahoma's football history (his comments after the 1994 Copper Bowl notwithstanding). He ordered the destruction of several old football files (which were actually preserved without his knowledge). He also said on his statewide tour that the team he planned to put together would make "Sooner Nation" forget about legendary coaches Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer.[9][11][12]

After leaving Oklahoma, Schnellenberger decided to try the financial world, and became a bond salesman, passing the certification exam on his third try.[6]

Florida Atlantic

After a few years out of the limelight, Schnellenberger resurfaced in 1998. At age 64 he was named director of football operations for Florida Atlantic University, with the task of building a football program from scratch: coming up with a strategic plan, raising funds and selecting a coach. He was able to raise $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."[6]

For the next two years, Schnellenberger led the fledgling team through fund-raising, recruiting and practice. For their first practice in 2000, the Owls had 160 walk-ons and 22 scholarship players. FAU football played their first game on September 1, 2001, losing to Slippery Rock 40–7 after the FAU administration failed to certify 13 Owls starters in time to play. The very next game the Owls upset the No. 22 team in I-AA, Bethune–Cookman, finishing their first season 4–6. They regressed to 2–9 the following season, but went 11–3 and made the I-AA semifinals in their third. During their fourth season, the Owls posted a 9–3 record while transitioning to Division I-A, but were ineligible for both a bowl game and the I-AA playoffs because of their transitioning status.[6]

After playing four years at the Division I-AA level, FAU moved to the Sun Belt Conference and Division I-A level in 2005. This goal had been one of Schnellenberger's primary objectives upon creation of the program. After two seasons in the Sun Belt, FAU football won the 2007 Conference title and secured its first ever bowl invitation, defeating Memphis 44–27 in the New Orleans Bowl. In just the seventh year of the football program's history, and the third year playing in Division I-A, Florida Atlantic set an NCAA record by becoming the youngest program ever to receive an invitation to a bowl game. For his success in 2007, Coach Schnellenberger was awarded the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year.

In 2008, Coach Schnellenberger led his 6-6 FAU Owls to a post-season bid at the Motor City Bowl against the Central Michigan Chippewas. This marked the first time a 6-6 Sun Belt Conference team that had not won the Conference Championship was invited to a post-season bowl. Although the Owls were underdogs, Coach Schnellenberger extended his post-season bowl record to 6-0, the most of any coach without a loss, with a 24-21 win.

Schnellenberger, whose contract as head coach expired at the end of the 2011 season, announced his retirement on August 11, 2011, effective at season's end. He plans to remain at FAU as a university ambassador; when asked if he would consider coaching again, he replied, "You're not going to see me anywhere but here or at the beach." During his FAU career, he regularly pushed for a new on-campus football stadium; that goal was realized with the 2010 groundbreaking for the new FAU Stadium. Shortly before he announced his retirement, he was featured in a pre-opening ceremony in which he switched on the stadium lights for the first time. He led the Owls out for their first home game in the new facility on October 15.[13]


Schnellenberger has been married to Beverlee (née Donnelly) for over 40 years; they met when Howard played for the Toronto Argonauts.[14] His son, Stephen, was diagnosed as an infant with a rare form of endocrine cancer but lived a normal childhood and became an insurance broker in Florida; however, during a 2003 surgery, his heart stopped and he suffered brain damage that left him in a semi-comatose state. Subsequently, Stephen's parents cared for him at their home in Boca Raton, Florida until his death on March 9, 2008.[6][15]

Schnellenberger is known for his gravelly baritone voice and was known for smoking a trademark pipe, but gave it up after he found out his son was diagnosed with cancer.[6][7] During his time at Miami and Louisville he was well known for wearing a distinctive suede jacket and a conservative striped tie, echoing the dress of his mentors such as Bear Bryant, though he now wears more golf shirts as coach of FAU.[7]

He is known for his colorful press conference quotes, such that a Louisville weekly newspaper, the Louisville Eccentric Observer, includes a feature called "SchnellSpeak of the Week".[16]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Miami Hurricanes (NCAA Division I-A Independent) (1979–1983)
1979 Miami 5–6
1980 Miami 9–3 W Peach 18 18
1981 Miami 9–2 8
1982 Miami 7–4
1983 Miami 11–1 W Orange 1 1
Miami: 41–16
Louisville Cardinals (NCAA Division I-A Independent) (1985–1994)
1985 Louisville 2–9
1986 Louisville 3–8
1987 Louisville 3–7–1
1988 Louisville 8–3
1989 Louisville 6–5
1990 Louisville 10–1–1 W Fiesta 12 14
1991 Louisville 2–9
1992 Louisville 5–6
1993 Louisville 9–3 W Liberty 23 24
1994 Louisville 6–5
Louisville: 54–56–2
Oklahoma Sooners (Big Eight Conference) (1995–1995)
1995 Oklahoma 5–5–1 2–5 5th
Oklahoma: 5–5–1 2–5
Florida Atlantic Owls (NCAA Division I-AA Independent) (2001–2005)
2001 Florida Atlantic 4–6
2002 Florida Atlantic 2–9
2003 Florida Atlantic 11–3 L NCAA Division I-AA Semifinal
2004 Florida Atlantic 9–3
2005 Florida Atlantic 2–9
Florida Atlantic Owls (Sun Belt Conference) (2006–present)
2006 Florida Atlantic 5–7 4–3 T–3rd
2007 Florida Atlantic 8–5 6–1 T–1st W New Orleans
2008 Florida Atlantic 7–6 4–3 T–3rd W Motor City
2009 Florida Atlantic 5–7 5–3 T–3rd
2010 Florida Atlantic 4–8 3–5 T–6th
2011 Florida Atlantic 1–11 0–8
Florida Atlantic: 58–74 22–23
Total: 158–151–3[17]
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

Bowl games

Schnellenberger is 6–0 in bowl games:

  • 1981 Peach BowlMiami, FL defeated Virginia Tech 20–10
  • 1984 Orange BowlMiami, FL defeated Nebraska 31–30 (won national championship)
  • 1991 Fiesta BowlLouisville defeated Alabama 34–7
  • 1993 Liberty BowlLouisville defeated Michigan State 18–7
  • 2007 New Orleans BowlFAU defeated Memphis 44–27
  • 2008 Motor City Bowl - FAU defeated Central Michigan 24–21


Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
BAL 1973 4 10 0 .286 4th in AFC East - - - Missed Playoffs
BAL 1974 0 3 0 .000 5th in AFC East - - - Replaced by Joe Thomas
BAL Total 4 13 0 .235 0 0 .000
Total[18] 4 13 0 .235 0 0 .000


  1. D'Angelo, Tom. From Broadway Joe, to UM's first title, to FAU's stadium: Howard Schnellenberger's drive has been unmatched.
  2. 1991 Dawahares-Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame Inductees, Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Accessed June 24, 2007. "One of the great athletes who made Flaget High School legendary for its prowess, Howard Schnellenberger played football, basketball and baseball for the former school in Louisville's West End."
  3. Steve Ellis, Amato reconnects to Dade, Tallahassee Democrat, October 17, 2007.
  4. Matt Hayes, The birth of a salesman - College Football, The Sporting News, February 16, 2004.
  5. Bruce Feldman, What makes a good job-opening? Money, tradition to start,, December 10, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Forde, Pat (December 21, 2007). FAU's bowl run adds to Schnellenberger's legacy].
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 John Antonik, Schnellenberger's Return,, June 9, 2004.
  8. Sports People: Football; Schnellenberger Hired By Oklahoma Sooners, Associated Press, December 17, 1994.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dorsey, Stan. "Wanting your children to grow up to be … Sooners - Oklahoma football - College Football Special", Sporting News, The, 1996-08-19. Retrieved on 2007-09-14. 
  10. Schnellenberger Moves On, Associated Press, December 19, 1995.
  11. Maisel, Ivan. "One coach jolts, another bolts, in the Big Eight - Oklahoma, Kansas - College Football Report - Column", Sporting News, The, 1996-01-01. Retrieved on 2007-09-14. Archived from the original on 2012-07-11. 
  12. Hayes, Matt. "Norman is back to normal, thanks to Stoops' magic - University of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops", Sporting News, The, 2000-11-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-14. Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. 
  13. Associated Press. "FAU's Howard Schnellenberger retiring",, August 11, 2011. Retrieved on September 15, 2011. 
  14. Ted Hutton, FAU: Howard Schnellenberger's wife, Beverlee, isn't content to sit in the stands, Sun-Sentinel, December 10, 2007.
  15. Pete Pelegrin, Schnellenberger's son passes away, The Miami Herald, March 10, 2008.
  16. Rumor & Innuendo. Louisville Eccentric Observer.
  17. David DeLassus, All-Time Coaching Records:Howard Schnellenberger, College Football Data Warehouse, July 23, 2010.
  18. Howard Schnellenberger NFL Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks. Retrieved on 2010-12-28.

External links