NCF Nation: Howard Schnellenberger

Miami dynasty born from 1983 Florida game

September, 4, 2013

The team that started a dynasty trudged into the locker room after its season opener, bracing for the wrath of its coach.

Miami had just played a terrible game, losing to hated in-state rival Florida 28-3. The Gators were the higher ranked team, and had the home-field advantage, but that was no excuse for the turnovers that piled one on top of the other.

Howard Schnellenberger looked at the young men before him. And he made a decision that ultimately changed college football. He did not yell. He did not point fingers. He simply told his team, "We gave that one away. Let's clean up the mistakes and get ready to go play."

"We practiced like we had won the game and that to me was the biggest decision that I've ever made in my life -- particularly in that season for that situation," Schnellenberger recalled in a recent phone interview.

That loss to Florida, 30 years ago almost to the day, could have broken Miami. Instead, the 1983 Hurricanes were emboldened. Miami reeled off 10 straight victories in 10 consecutive weeks to earn a spot in the Orange Bowl against No. 1 Nebraska for the national championship.

Impressive, yes.

But not as impressive as its shocking win over the Huskers in perhaps the greatest championship game ever played, a victory that propelled Miami to five titles over an 18-year period, an era of dominance unmatched since.

Before Miami became known as "The U," though, it was a program struggling to find itself. Schnellenberger, himself familiar with college football dynasties from his days as an assistant to Alabama coach Bear Bryant, would change all that. He got players to buy into his master plan to make Miami into a powerhouse. Schnellenberger promised every single one of his players that Miami would be a champion one day.

Every single one of those players believed him.

"He told us in his fifth year that we'd challenge for the national championship," recalled Jay Brophy, a linebacker on the '83 team. "Now, he could tell me, 'Jump off the roof, you'll be fine,' and I'll do it. Because what he told us is true. In the fifth year, we won the national championship."

That might not have happened had Schnellenberger reacted differently following the loss to Florida.

To read more of Andrea Adelson's story, click here.
There are a couple of ways to look at USC coach Lane Kiffin's decision to drop out of the coaches' poll.

First, he's taking his ball and going home in a fit of pique. Second, USA Today's gotcha moment in the name of the "poll's integrity" -- insert canned laughter there -- inspired him to drop one more frustration from his life and focus on his team.

It's probably a little of both.

The bottom line is a negative for Kiffin. There was no reason to fib, to tell reporters he wouldn't vote his team No. 1 when he did. And his explanation afterward that he was speaking about other voters, not himself, when he was saying he wouldn't vote the Trojans No. 1 smacked of a guy with a razor blade and a shaky hand going after a strand of hair.

Kiffin's reputation, terrible after controversial tenures with the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Volunteers, has experienced a renaissance this past year. And for good reason. He let his coaching and recruiting do most of his talking and the message that started to emerge was he was good at both. Further, those of us who've had a scattering of moments with him when he lets his guard down have experienced a guy who is insightful and pretty darn amusing.

This truly is a tempest in a teapot. While, if you are keeping score at home, this is a blip in the "Rehabilitated Kiffin" narrative. Kiffin haters, as frustrated and neutered a group of gadflies as you could find of late, now can again smear themselves with goat's blood and dance around their bonfires. So enjoy this 23 seconds in the news cycle.

On the other hand, some USC fans are going overboard with their conspiracy theories. Some seem to believe Kiffin was outed just because he's Lane Kiffin. While it is possible that a lesser-known coach's random comments wouldn't have registered, there is a precedent for USA Today's gotcha moment on Kiffin's dissembling. The same thing happened to former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel in 2006. And, yes, Ohio State completed a series of PR backflips to try to take the heat off Tressel.

This moment could have been avoided if Kiffin had just refused to say which team he voted No. 1 because his vote is -- was -- confidential. Or he could have said he voted his team No. 1, which would have been fine because his team very well might be the best in the land.

But since USA Today has gravely reiterated its so-serious task of protecting the coaches' poll integrity, perhaps it should actually take that job seriously by insisting the poll be transparent, with each voter's ballot published every week, as the AP poll does. We are talking about a news organization, not a "Hide Important Information From the Public" organization. The argument that coaches need confidentiality is devoid of merit. You win an argument over that point with a simple, "No, that's wrong. Hush."

Further, it should be more aggressive in policing voters whose ballots fail the integrity test. As the Pac-12 blog once pointed out, for years Howard Schnellenberger's ballot was often clueless and indefensible. Someone should have tracked down Schnellenberger and simply told him to re-vote or be kicked out of the poll.

Here's a guess that confidentiality has allowed more than a handful of coaches to vote in a way that is obviously self-interested and disingenuous. That is a far more serious issue than Lane Kiffin saying he didn't vote his team No. 1 when he did.
Howard Schnellenberger has to do the honorary coin toss for this one, right?

Miami and Florida Atlantic will play each other three times between 2013 and 2016, the schools announced Saturday. Despite being roughly an hour apart, the schools have never met.

"I'm thrilled to death that FAU and UM are going to face-off on the gridiron," Schnellenberger said in a statement. "It is part of the big plan and may develop into a wonderful addition to south Florida football."

Schnellenberger coached the Hurricanes to their first national title in 1983. He started the Owls' program in 1998 and was its only coach before retiring at the end of this past season and becoming a school ambassador. Carl Pelini succeeded him as coach. Schnellenberger's career record is 158-151-3

FAU will travel to Sun Life Stadium on Aug. 31, 2013 and host Miami at FAU Stadium in 2015. Miami will host FAU again in 2016. The dates for the last two games have yet to be announced.

The 2013 game will be the first of four games Miami plays against in-state schools that season, as the Hurricanes will also travel to Florida State, host Florida and visit South Florida. The 2015 game will mark Miami's first in Palm Beach County and its first away game south of Tampa.

FAU's only game against an ACC school was a 54-6 loss at Clemson on Sept. 2, 2006.

"It's a great matchup," Pelini said in a statement. "Miami is a prestigious program of which we would like to emulate. It will be great for our players to challenge the names they played against in high school and for the fans to have a close away game to attend."
Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe is one of the most honest men in America, which makes him a dream for people like me. Ask him anything, and he tells you the unvarnished truth. What makes him more compelling for my story on college football in Florida is his incredible role in the transformation. Kehoe had a front-row seat for it all, having played at Miami when the Hurricanes began their rise under Howard Schnellenberger. He got his first coaching job under Schnellenberger in 1982 and remained on staff there until 2005, coaching under Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis and Larry Coker. If anybody is an expert on the rise of football in the state, it is Kehoe.

He returned to Miami under new coach Al Golden last season and is back where he belongs.

[+] EnlargeArt Kehoe
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty ImagesArt Kehoe watched the Hurricanes rise under Howard Schnellenberger in the 1980s and he believes they'll do so again under Al Golden.
Here are some of his insights into why football in Florida exploded and how the Canes make their return.

On why Florida is breeding ground for high school talent:

Art Kehoe: When I grew up in Pennsylvania, the season got over in Thanksgiving. In December, January, February, March, you were locked in doors watching the “Three Stooges” and eating potato chips. Unless you were wrestling or good enough to play basketball. All the kids down here, they’re doing Frisbee, or they’re on a surfboard, playing basketball, baseball, football all year round. The best months of the year are November, December, January, February, March. To me, I always felt there was so much speed down here and the combination of, you were getting a Florida kid he might be a little scrawny because he wasn’t lifting all the weights and doing all the eating. You were getting a faster, tougher kind of athlete down here. You also had a mushrooming community that was producing tons of athletes, in a climate that said we’re going to practice year round, get faster, better and tougher.

On why Miami never skipped a beat despite the coaching transition in the 1980s and 1990s:

AK: People have said whether it was Jimmy or Howard, if they had stayed here, they could have been icons. Now they’re icons anyway, but it’s all the same reasons. It’s like Coach Golden says: We’re a landlocked peninsula. There’s nowhere else to go so why shouldn’t we control this area? If people want to win a national championship -- you have a private school, high graduation rate, beautiful campus, tremendous city, the weather’s fantastic, and we have the players in ... Miami, why can’t we control that?

On Miami's return:

AK: If anybody thinks Miami is gone, you’re going to learn the hard way. We are not gone, and we’re not falling off by the wayside. We’re going to win and we’re going to win big, and the reason I feel that is the guy at the top. I don’t know how close we are, because we’ve had a couple of dents in our armor, but I know it’s coming. I watched Coach Schnellenberger do it and I was in awe to be a part of it with the teammates we had. It was an awesome thing to watch. I’ve been through all the transitions, to do that, for that long and not believe you’ve got a leader and it’s going to happen again.

On heightened expectations when you win as many championships as Miami has:

AK: Nobody wants to hear about the pain, just deliver the baby and the baby’s got to be winning. People know what’s been done here, and they expect things to happen. And if it doesn’t, our fate will be sealed, and so will the guys up at Florida State if it doesn’t and so will the guys up at Florida if it doesn’t. That’s the inevitable thing about sports and society, especially if you go up levels. If you’re at the college level or the professional level, there’s big money involved and people expect results, especially at places where you have nothing but winning.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has reached a verbal agreement to become Florida Atlantic's head coach, colleague Joe Schad and others are reporting.

Schad reports that Pelini is expected to be introduced at Florida Atlantic on Monday. Pelini will replace Howard Schnellenberger, who announced before the season that he planned to retire and will coach his final game Saturday when the 1-10 Owls host Louisiana-Monroe. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was among those who recommended Pelini for the job.

It will be interesting to see where Nebraska coach Bo Pelini looks to replace his older brother on staff. The Pelini brothers helped bring Nebraska's defense to prominence in 2009 and 2010, and the unit had its good moments this year but also dealt with some puzzling inconsistency.

Former Arizona coach Mike Stoops was among the candidates Carl Pelini beat out for the FAU job, Schad reports. Stoops confirmed he has had discussions with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer about a position on the Buckeyes staff. It will be interesting if Bo Pelini makes a push for Stoops, his close friend, for the Huskers' vacancy.

Nebraska's offense should be very strong in 2012, and it will be the defense, Bo Pelini's specialty, which must makes strides after losing standouts Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard. This will be a very important hire for Bo.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 28, 2011
Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 13:

Houston one step away. The Cougars faced a tough task on the road at Tulsa, with a spot in the Conference USA championship game on the line. Tulsa jumped out to a 10-6 lead early in the game, and some had to wonder whether we were seeing the old Houston come back to life. But these are not the Cougars of 2009 or 2010. The Cougars reeled off 28 straight points in the second half to blow open the game and win 48-16. Case Keenum threw for 457 yards and five touchdown passes, and Patrick Edwards had 181 yards and four touchdowns as Houston won a school-record 12th game. Two of their touchdown connections came on fourth down. Edwards went over 100 yards for the 16th time in his career and also broke the conference record for career receiving yards. Houston now hosts Southern Miss on Saturday with a chance to make its first BCS appearance.

Coaching carousel starts. Akron, Memphis and UAB all are in the market for new head coaches. The Zips fired Rob Ianello after he went 2-22 in his two seasons at the helm. The Tigers fired Larry Porter after he went 3-21 in two seasons. UAB fired Neil Callaway after he went 18-42 in five seasons with the Blazers. Athletic directors at all three schools essentially said they did not see improvement in their programs and decided to go in different directions. Callaway is the third Conference USA coach who has been fired this season, joining Bob Toledo of Tulane. New Mexico also fired coach Mike Locksley earlier this season, but already hired former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. Meanwhile, Ianello was reportedly fired as he drove to his mother's funeral in Long Island, N.Y.

Going bowling. Marshall became bowl eligible for the first time under coach Doc Holliday, after a 34-27 win over East Carolina in overtime. The Pirates sent the game into the extra period when Dominique Davis threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jones with 14 seconds left in regulation. But Davis threw an interception in overtime, after Tron Martinez scored on a 1-yard run for the Herd. East Carolina will not be in a bowl game for the first time in six years. As for the Herd, they are one of several non-AQ teams to become bowl eligible after losing seasons in 2010:
  • Ball State improved from 4-8 to 6-6.
  • Western Kentucky improved from 2-10 to 7-5.
  • Wyoming improved from 3-9 to 7-4, with one game remaining at Colorado State.
  • Louisiana Tech improved from 5-7 to 8-4 and WAC champs.
  • Utah State improved from 4-8 to 6-5 with one game remaining at New Mexico State.
  • Arkansas State improved from 4-8 to 9-2.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette improved from 3-9 to 8-4.

As you can see, three Sun Belt teams made five-game improvements, and the league has four bowl-eligible teams this season.

Game of the week. FAU 38, UAB 35.

Howard Schnellenberger announced his retirement before the season, began but his final season was not exactly going according to plan. The Owls were the only winless team in FBS heading into Week 13. But alas, the football gods conspired to make sure the legendary program builder would not go out without a win. The Owls played inspired football Saturday against UAB, beating the Blazers 38-35 as Schnellenberger avoided his first winless season. Alfred Morris had a career-high four touchdowns, with a career-high 198 yards on 38 carries to notch his fifth straight 100-yard game. "I got the biggest and best kiss from [wife] Beverlee in a long time on the sideline," Schnellenberger said afterward. "And I'm expecting more when I get home."

WAC-ky WAC. Nevada was in control of the WAC heading into last week's game against Louisiana Tech. But the Wolf Pack have now dropped two straight games, losing to Utah State 21-17 on Saturday. The Bulldogs had no such problems after their big win over Nevada last week and beat New Mexico State 44-0 to win their first WAC title since 2001. Louisiana Tech has won seven straight after starting the year 1-4. The team also accepted a bowl spot in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the fifth bowl bid in school history. This will be first bowl appearance since an Independence Bowl victory over Northern Illinois in 2008.

Helmet Stickers

Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall. Cato went 23-of-29 for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-27 overtime win over East Carolina to get the Thundering Herd to a bowl game.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce had a season-high 189 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries in a 34-16 win over Kent State. Pierce went over the 100-yard mark in rushing for the 17th time in his career and eighth time this season. Pierce has had three or more touchdowns in six games this year.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey had a season-high 227-yards and three touchdowns in a 41-18 win over Troy. Rainey also broke the school's single-season rushing record, ending the regular season with 1,695 yards. He now leads the nation for the second straight season in carries and broke his own school record with 369 attempts on the season.

Travis Stanaway, S, Boise State. Stanaway, making just the second start of his career for Boise State, had a career-high nine tackles, forced a fumble and had his first career interception as a Bronco in a 36-14 win over Wyoming.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State. Wagner had a game-high 15 tackles in a 21-17 win over Nevada, and also had a critical fumble recovery on a fourth-and-1 in the final minutes of the game to preserve the victory.

Big Ten predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
The Big Ten is stepping up its game in Week 2, and we hope to do the same. After mediocre results the opening weekend, we're both shooting for perfection, or something like it.

The slate features some tricky games, a potential upset special or two, and a handful of gimmes.

Let's get picky.


Brian Bennett: The Cyclones have barely scratched the scoreboard recently against Iowa, and I liked the way the Hawkeyes defensive line played in the opener. Feel free to sigh, Hawks ... Iowa 24, Iowa State 9

Adam Rittenberg: He's the resident comedian, folks. Be sure and tip your waitress. Speaking of tips, here's one: Go with Marcus Coker on your fantasy team. Oh, wait, I already have him. Coker rebounds with 3 touchdowns as the Hawkeyes roll. ... Iowa 27, Iowa State 13


Adam Rittenberg: The Spartans have a cleaner start, limit silly penalties and rack up a bunch of rushing yards against Howard Schnellenberger's crew. B.J. Cunningham gets the receptions record in the first quarter. ... Michigan State 33, Florida Atlantic 10

Brian Bennett: Pipe down. Michigan State's offensive line shows some improvement, and the Spartans will roll into South Bend next week at 2-0. ... Michigan State 35, Florida Atlantic 7


Brian Bennett: The Rockets pose far more of a threat than Akron, and they might catch Ohio State peeking ahead to Miami. Still, the Buckeyes defense is too much despite some offensive struggles ... Ohio State 28, Toledo 10

Adam Rittenberg: I agree, the Buckeyes can't space out against the Rockets (I know, lame), who have a good coach (Tim Beckman) and provide a much better test for Ohio State's defense. Still, I see another big game for Carlos Hyde and the Ohio State running backs ... Ohio State 31, Toledo 13


Adam Rittenberg: The Beavers rarely fare well in early season big games, and you have to wonder about their confidence level after the Sac State debacle. Wisconsin's defense is hungry and makes a statement. ... Wisconsin 35, Oregon State 13

Brian Bennett: I could see the Badgers taking this one too lightly with that Sacramento State score fresh in their minds. But Montee Ball and James White still run wild. ... Wisconsin 42, Oregon State 20


Brian Bennett: I like South Dakota State's nickname: Jackrabbits. That's about all I like about them. Illini roll behind another big passing day from Nathan Scheelhaase ... Illinois 44, SDSU 7

Adam Rittenberg: Fear the bunnies. They nearly knocked off Minnesota in 2009. But Illinois avoids the same fate as Scheelhaase steps up more in the run game and gets help from Jason Ford. ... Illinois 40, SDSU 12


Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern's offensive line builds off of a strong opening performance and gets the run game going against overmatched Eastern Illinois, while Dan Persa sits again. ... Northwestern 38, EIU 10

Brian Bennett: No Persa, no problem -- at least for another week. ... Northwestern 31, EIU 13


Brian Bennett: The Aggies are bad. Real bad. Perfect opponent for Jerry Kill's debut, as Troy Stoudermire sets Big Ten return record ... Minnesota 35, NMSU 14

Adam Rittenberg: You worry a bit about a letdown as Minnesota has been hearing how impressive they looked in the opener at USC. The Gophers start off a little slowly before MarQueis Gray and the offense surge against the Aggies. ... Minnesota 31, NMSU 13


Adam Rittenberg: OK, time to get serious. Penn State's defense keeps the Lions in this one, but I don't have enough faith in either Nittany Lions quarterback to predict an upset. Trent Richardson has a big fourth quarter as Alabama squeaks out a win. ... Alabama 19, Penn State 13

Brian Bennett: It sure would be great for the Big Ten if Penn State could pull this one off. Alabama's quarterback situation is a little shaky, too. But the Tide's defense is just too good against a Penn State offensive line that wasn't overly impressive against Indiana State. ... Alabama 24, Penn State 12


Brian Bennett: I'm putting Purdue on upset alert for the second straight week against a team that battled Texas pretty well for three quarters. For the second straight week, the Boilers eke one out, this time on a late Ralph Bolden touchdown. ... Purdue 19, Rice 16

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue has a lot to fix on both sides of the ball, but Rice doesn't seem like a team that can capitalize, even at home. Caleb TerBush builds on his late-game heroics and the defense makes enough plays to improve to 2-0. ... Purdue 26, Rice 18


Adam Rittenberg: Thing is, Indiana didn't look that shaky on offense in the opener. But getting pushed around by Ball State at the line of scrimmage is inexcusable. IU gets a better effort, but it's still not enough. ... Virginia 27, Indiana 17

Brian Bennett: Agree with you on all counts but think there will be more points scored, especially after the Hoosiers gave up 27 to Ball State. ... Virginia 34, Indiana 23


Brian Bennett: Bo Pelini didn't sound too excited about the Cornhuskers' 40-7 opening win over Chattanooga (not that he ever sounds that excited). Nebraska has a few more hiccups on offense but shuts down the Bulldogs on defense. ... Nebraska 31, Fresno State 10

Adam Rittenberg: I agree it'll take some more time for Tim Beck's offense to click. But Fresno disappointed me in Week 1, and Pat Hill's crew isn't nearly the giant killer it once was. Rex Burkhead has a big night. ... Nebraska 33, Fresno State 14


Adam Rittenberg: Either Notre Dame implodes or the Irish come together behind Tommy Rees and a defense that actually looks better. Call me crazy, but I think the Irish bounce back. ... Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21

Brian Bennett: Notre Dame is better than it showed against South Florida and would have won if not for a slew of turnovers. Crazy things happen in this game. But Michigan just seems to have the Irish's number, and that atmosphere will help immensely as Denard Robinson pulls off more heroics. ... Michigan 31, Notre Dame 30

Season records

Bennett: 10-2 (.833)

Rittenberg: 9-3 (.750)
Howard Schnellenberger Michael DeHoog/Sports Imagery/ Getty ImagesHoward Schnellenberger led both Miami and Florida Atlantic to national prominence.
It is the rare coach who can catapult a college football program onto the map. Rarer still is the coach who can put two college football programs on the map.

Howard Schnellenberger achieved both, making his mark as one of the most influential college coaches in South Florida and perhaps the nation. It was Schnellenberger who started Miami on its path as a national program. It was Schnellenberger who built the Florida Atlantic program with his vision and hard work. Difficult to forget what he did at Louisville, too.

Schnellenberger gave himself completely to college football. But now, at 77, the time had come for him to take a deep breath and retire after a 50-plus year career.

His departure had been the subject of speculation for months. Schnellenberger is in the final year of his contract with Florida Atlantic and achieved what he set out to do when he arrived in Boca Raton. His baby, an on-campus stadium for his Owls, will open in October. That caps the perfect ending to a career that has seen its share of success.

Schnellenberger has learned from the best, playing for and coaching with Bear Bryant. In fact, he was coaching for Bryant the year FAU athletic director Craig Angelos was born. Schnellenberger then moved on to the NFL, where he served under Don Shula on the Dolphins' staff the year of the perfect season in 1972.

Hard to get better mentors than Bryant and Shula. So when Schnellenberger took over at the University of Miami in 1979, nobody should have been surprised when he predicted the Hurricanes would win a national championship within five years. Granted, the UM of 1979 was not the UM of today. There were no national championship banners. No swagger. No U.

But there was talent, and a man intent on bringing this program to national prominence, with the coaching chops to get it done. When his Hurricanes upset Nebraska 31-30 in the 1984 Orange Bowl to win the national championship, he set the future course for the program. Veteran Miami assistant Art Kehoe told The Associated Press: "I don’t know if this program would have ever gotten off the map like it did without Howard’s leadership. What he did for this place is unbelievable.”

Miami went on to win national championships in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001, becoming one of the most feared programs for a stretch in the 1980s and 1990s. The Hurricanes of today are trying to recapture a little of the magic Schnellenberger spread while he was there.

But even more than winning that national title at Miami, Schnellenberger has taken immense pride in what he has done at FAU. When FAU announced it was starting a football program in talent-rich South Florida in 1998, many wondered how the program would survive, let alone compete. But Schenllenberger was the driving force, doing everything possible to get his program noticed.

The Owls began play in 2001, and incredibly, it was not long before the Owls were playing on the Football Bowl Subdivision level and winning bowl games. Just four years after moving up to FBS, Schnellenberger took his team to a bowl game and a Sun Belt title in 2007. They went back to a bowl in 2008.

But FAU was missing a place to call home. Schnellenberger drove that point home the day he began working for FAU, spearheading fundraising efforts to help make it happen.

“Three university presidents were involved in this, but one coach,” FAU president Mary Jane Saunders said last week, when the lights were turned on in the stadium for the first time. “And it’s coach Schnellenberger that made this happen."

With his white mustache, signature pipe and booming voice, Schnellenberger became an iconic college football coach. Is he Hall of Fame worthy? His career winning percentage of 52 percent falls short of the required 60 percent to be eligible. There also were missteps along the way. His one-year stay at Oklahoma ended in disaster. In fact, that season -- in which the Sooners went 5-5-1 -- is the only one not mentioned in his FAU bio.

No coach is perfect. And there is no disputing the impact Schnellenberger had at Miami and FAU.

He leaves behind dual legacies, something any coach would be proud to say.

Heart of the City: FAU

June, 20, 2011
We are profiling city schools that compete in a market alongside an NFL franchise. Up next:

School: FAU
Location: Boca Raton, Fla.
Enrollment: 28,000
Bowl appearances: 2
NFL first-round picks: 0
Losing seasons: 3
10-win seasons: 0

Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: Numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The good: Florida Atlantic began playing football in 2001 under Howard Schnellenberger, who certainly knows a thing or two about the South Florida area. Schnellenberger coached at Miami and won a national championship there, and immediately envisioned a successful FBS program from the time it launched. Location is obviously a huge plus, where FAU can take advantage of a fertile recruiting region and try to lure some players who would have a better opportunity to play immediately for the Owls as opposed to waiting their turn at a bigger school. The beautiful South Florida beaches are a quick 15-minute drive from campus. After being nomads when it came to its home games, FAU will open a $70 million, 30,000-seat on-campus stadium, the centerpiece of what the school is calling Innovation Village. Located in the north-central area of campus, the Village is set to include housing, restaurant options as well as shops. An alumni center and a student fitness center have already opened nearby. Schnellenberger and the university hope this will propel FAU to greater heights and national visibility. What FAU has tried to do since it opened in 1964 is challenge the traditional ideas of what makes a university. The school and football program still have plenty of room to grow.

The bad: FAU is still taking baby steps compared to most every college football program in America. Tradition is lacking, and the hope is that an on-campus stadium will help. After back-to-back bowl appearances in 2007 and 2008, the program seems to have taken a step back with losing seasons in 2009 and 2010. The preseason projections for 2011 are not high, either, with questions at quarterback, receiver and defense. FAU is also in a saturated football market. Even though the Dolphins are in Miami, they are South Florida’s team and dominate the headlines. FAU also has to compete with Miami, which is some 50 miles down the road and an automatic-qualifying school. There also are Florida and Florida State, which have big alumni bases in South Florida. Those two schools also recruit heavily in the area as well, along with USF, UCF, FIU and a host of other schools from around the nation. So finding a niche has been hard and will continue to be one of the challenges FAU must overcome.

Non-AQ did you know, Week 14

December, 3, 2010
Time for our final regular-season edition of Did You Know? Special thanks to the sports information directors at the conferences and schools for the notes below.

Both Boise State and Nevada have won at least 10 games this year and Hawaii is on the verge of doing so as well. If Hawaii beats UNLV this weekend or wins the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, then the WAC will have three teams with 10 or more wins for the first time since 1994 when BYU, Colorado State and Utah all finished the season with 10 victories.

New Mexico State junior Taveon Rogers finished the season with 1,410 kick return yards, setting a new WAC and NCAA record. The previous WAC record of 1,214 was set by San Jose State’s Deonce Whitaker in 1998, and the NCAA record was 1,382 yards set by Tulsa Damaris Johnson in 2008. Rogers’ 52 returns for the season also broke Whitaker’s WAC record of 51, but were short of the NCAA record of 55 set by Army’s William White in 2002. Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams has a chance to break both records this week as he has 47 returns for 1,287 yards.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs 253 passing yards to reach 10,000, and 65 rushing yards to reach 4,000 for his career ... he also needs two rushing TDs to tie the WAC’s career record of 58 (Ian Johnson-BSU).

SMU and UCF have met just twice with UCF holding a 2-0 series edge, having topped SMU in 2007 and 2008.

SMU receiver Aldrick Robinson is the first player in school history to record two 1,000-yard seasons. He has had TD catches in six straight games entering the Conference-USA title game, and has pulled in a school-record 12 TD catches this season.

Four of SMU’s starting 22 are seniors - Pete Fleps, Sterling Moore, Robinson and Youri Yenga. A staggering 82 percent of SMU’s 2010 starters are slated to be back in 2011.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger will coach his 300th game Saturday, against Troy, a team the Owls have been able to defeat once (2007). Running back Alfred Morris needs 118 yards to become the first FAU player to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

The Sun Belt has two of the top three running backs in the country in terms of yards gained. Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey leads the nation with 1,649 yards rushing, and North Texas' Lance Dunbar is third with 1,553 yards. Rainey had nine 100-yard rushing games this year, tying him with Antwan Floyd (1994) and Jon Frazier (2002) for the most 100-yard games in a season in school history. Dunbar’s 1,553 yards ranks third in North Texas history. Only Jamario Thomas and Patrick Cobbs have rushed for more yards in a single season. Both are juniors and will be back next season.

Several non-AQ players have been nominated for the Rudy Award, honoring student-athletes who demonstrate exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment. The award is named for former Notre Dame walk-on Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, immortalized in the movie "Rudy."

Here are the non-AQ nominees: Chris Banjo of SMU, Austin Contreras of UTEP, Doug Deakin of San Diego State, Kyle Delahooke of Navy, Kevin Fogler of Air Force, Derek Good of Colorado State, Jeremy Kellem of Middle Tennessee, Mitch Krotz of Miami (Ohio), Levi Koskan of Utah State, Dustin Lineback of East Carolina, Phillip Livas of Louisiana Tech, Darius Nall of UCF, Ashlyn Parker of FIU, Andrew Rich of BYU, Kevin Pool of Rice and Bronson Tiwanak of Hawaii.

Fans can review nominations and vote until Dec. 13 for the most deserving player at

Last yard proves difficult for Longhorns

November, 20, 2010
Texas strung together an impressive opening drive that looked like it ended with a one-yard run from Cody Johnson to give the Longhorns an early lead.

Not so. Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger called timeout, and officials ruled Johnson had been stopped short. The Owls proceeded to stuff Johnson at the goal line on fourth down to take over on downs.

That's exactly what Texas' offense didn't need in a game against a team that could allow them to establish some offensive rhythm heading into a game next week against Texas A&M when they'll really need it.

Fortunately for the fellas in burnt orange, Blake Gideon came up with a timely interception on the ensuing drive to get the ball back in the red zone. Johnson punched that one in, but had to do it on a pitch play on fourth down to give Texas an early 7-0 lead.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 15, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

1. Nebraska (9-1, 5-1, last week: 1) The Huskers did it ugly against Kansas, but they did it, and that's all that really matters. The offense will have to be sharper in College Station next week to beat the red-hot Aggies.

2. Oklahoma State (9-1, 5-1, LW: 2) The Cowboys took care of business in Austin, and are inching toward a first-ever trip toward a Big 12 title. Don't be looking for a slip-up in Lawrence next week, but hype is building for what should be a heated Bedlam battle in Stillwater in two weeks.

3. Oklahoma (8-2, 4-2, LW: 3) Bob Stoops-coached teams at Oklahoma continue their home dominance, but Owen Field will remain quiet for the rest of the season. The Sooners have to get by Baylor in Waco next week to still have a chance to play for the South title in Stillwater a week later. That's not as easy as it used to be.

4. Missouri (8-2, 4-2, LW: 4) Blaine Gabbert redeemed himself in a big way, but the Tigers defense made plays everywhere against Kansas State. Good luck finding a team that loses with a 4-1 advantage in turnovers and a defensive touchdown. This week, even with Iowa State missing senior quarterback Austen Arnaud, Missouri's trip to Ames won't be easy.

5. Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2, LW: 5) The Aggies are the league's hottest team, but it's hard to move them above any of the four teams higher than them. That'll change if Mike Sherman's team can knock off Nebraska this week. Texas A&M played one of its best halves of the year in its comeback win against Baylor. And by the way, how does that last-second loss to Oklahoma State back in the conference opener look now? A lot more impressive.

6. Kansas State (6-4, 3-4, LW: 6) Kansas State burned itself with costly fumbles, but the Wildcats would be well-served to ride Collin Klein to the finish line in 2010. A second dynamic running threat adds a lot more to the offense than a second average-at-best passer.

7. Baylor (7-4, 4-3, LW: 7) Baylor's offense got deadlocked by Tim DeRuyter's defense in a frustrating loss, but the Bears will try to go out with a bang against Oklahoma in their season finale this week.

8. Texas Tech (5-5, 3-5, LW: 9) Texas Tech didn't move up as much as the four teams below them moved down. The Red Raiders looked pretty helpless in Norman, but that's nothing new for Texas Tech or anyone. The Sooners haven't lost a Big 12 game at home since 2001. A late switch back to Steven Sheffield didn't help much, either. Expect Taylor Potts to start again next week.

9. Iowa State (5-6, 3-4, LW: 8) The loss to Colorado was crushing, but not as crushing as losing Arnaud. Expect Paul Rhoads' team to rally around experienced backup Jerome Tiller this week and give Missouri a tough time with a bowl berth on the line.

10. Texas (4-6, 2-5, LW: 10) Don't think a lopsided win against Florida Atlantic is a given for the Longhorns. Howard Schnellenberger's Owls gave Sun Belt leader Florida International its only conference loss of the season, 21-9, and have won three in a row.

11. Colorado (4-6, 1-5, LW: 12) The Buffs won a big one for Brian Cabral, and might tap into something down the stretch. If Kansas State turns it over like it did against Missouri, Colorado might string together a two-game winning streak.

12. Kansas (3-7, 1-5, LW: 11) Kansas is getting better, but the season's finish will be tough against Oklahoma State and Missouri.

Non-AQ Tricks and Treats

October, 29, 2010
Halloween time means we get to take a look at some of the tricks and treats the non-AQs have delivered so far this season. Have fun with this, and come up with some of your own in the comments section.

[+] EnlargeB.R. Holbrook
AP Photo/Rick BowmerNew Mexico did little right when it suffered a horrifying 72-0 loss against Oregon this season.
Scary movie: The worst loss of the season has to go to New Mexico, falling 72-0 to Oregon. The Lobos had eight first downs, 108 yards of total offense and trailed 59-0 at halftime. Did we mention that Oregon racked up 720 yards of total offense? The 72-point win for Oregon stands as the largest in school history over an FBS school. Not even FCS Portland State gave up that many points or yards to Oregon this year (though it did come close in the 69-0 loss).

Nightmare in Bronco Stadium: Yes, Boise State never loses at home, but watch out for Hawaii next week as a game that poses a threat to a contender. The Warriors are playing lights out football, and the Broncos have been less than impressive in the secondary this season. This one could impact the race for the national championship. On the other hand, the last time Boise State lost at home was to Washington State 42-20 on Sept. 8, 2001.

Boo (Boo): San Jose State and North Texas have been hit with major injuries, each losing at least 10 significant contributors for the season. But there is no bigger injury than the one Houston has had to overcome. Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum tore his ACL in the third game of the season and is out for the year. Backup Cotton Turner went out for the season in the same game. Houston has gone 2-2 without them and still stands atop the West Division of Conference USA. But it has been trying to deal with the huge loss of Keenum, who was poised to break the NCAA career passing record.

Night of the living dead: BYU is so not playing like BYU this season. The Cougars are 3-5 and are on the brink of failing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2004. The offense has looked like the living dead, ranking No. 106 in the nation. Spooky stuff in Provo.

Jigsaw team: San Diego State has put the pieces of the puzzle together in the second season under coach Brady Hoke and is one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. The running game is working with Ronnie Hillman, and that has allowed the play-action to work with Ryan Lindley, DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. The defense has played well, too. The Aztecs (5-2) have matched their best start in the past 14 seasons. To think they are two blown calls from being undefeated. Enough to make you scream, right Aztecs fans?

Halloween costumes: Time to play dress up. What would some of these guys go dressed up as on Halloween?

TCU coach Gary Patterson as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Because seriously, those guys look so much alike with their visors on, they could have been switched at birth.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen as a scarecrow. You know, because he scares off teams from power conferences.

Utah punt returner Shaky Smithson as Zorro. You have to love the way he slices and dices through punt return units.

Temple coach Al Golden as a zombie. Nothing like bringing a program back from the dead.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger as Colonel Sanders. Anybody else see the resemblance?

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English and Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart as conquering heroes. Hey, they both ended long losing streaks this year.

Twilight Zone: You know Bowling Green would love a do-over. A year after going bowling, the Falcons are 1-7. Three of their losses are by three points or less. Quarterback Matt Schilz has been banged up, and the young team has not been able to come together. Of course, Akron (0-8) and New Mexico (0-7) probably wish this nightmare of a season would end. Now.
Florida Atlantic had its plans for an on-campus stadium approved Thursday, and the school hopes to begin play there next season.

[+] EnlargeFlorida Atlantic
Florida AtlanticA rendering of the on-campus stadium approved for Florida Atlantic.
The Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved the plans for the 30,000-seat stadium to be built at the Boca Raton, Fla., school. The university still needs to close a loan of $45 million to cover most of the costs of the $70 million stadium. About $20 million came from non-academic university reserves.

The stadium is to feature 20 luxury suites -- with ocean views -- along with 1,000 club seats. Construction is expected to begin in October and is anticipated to be finished next fall, in time for the start of the season.

FAU has played in various places while coach Howard Schnellenberger worked hard to get an on-campus stadium built since the program kicked off its first season 10 years ago. FAU once had a home at Sun Life Stadium, where the Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricanes play. The Owls currently play at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, a former soccer stadium that also hosts high school football games.

The FAU stadium site is part of a larger village on campus that will feature dorms, restaurants and shops.

This is a good step for FAU, but it remains to be seen whether an on-campus stadium can elevate the program. Attendance ranked No. 110 last season, with an average of 15,326 fans. FAU is still primarily a commuter school, but getting an on-campus stadium, along with the other amenities being built, could begin to change that image.

FAU has played in two bowl games in its short football history, winning both.

“The stadium will provide a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community, building traditions and enhancing the university experience,” Schnellenberger said. “The FAU Owls' two-time bowl-winning football team will truly be playing their games before a ‘home’ crowd. It’s an amazing time for the university.”
1. My story about college football’s vanishing ties left out one other place they’ve finished. Coaches don’t wear them much anymore, either. Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel and Howard Schnellenberger all wear ties and, either by age or outlook, hearken to an era when coaches wore blazers, too. Here’s the cool thing: Paterno has imitators. Al Golden of Temple, a Paterno disciple, wears a tie. So does Mario Cristobal of Florida International, who says he does so to honor Paterno.

2. Big 12 spokesperson Bob Burda told me Monday that the new 10-team league is considering a full nine-team round-robin schedule, as the Pac-10 now plays. It’s hard to imagine the Big 12 teams giving up a store-bought home game in order to play a ninth conference game. But the round robin would confer an instant competitive legitimacy on a league that will have to fight being seen as Texas, Oklahoma and the Others.

3. NCAA members will consider legislation that would prevent leagues from making scholarship offers before July 1 of the summer prior to a recruit’s senior year of high school. That sounds a lot like putting toothpaste back in the tube. It will be messy and it will be impossible to police. But sophomores are getting offers these days. With all the cynicism surrounding the business, it’s nice to see the NCAA membership (finally) try to do something about it besides shrug.