Teams laud Howard Schnellenberger
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Former coach Howard Schnellenberger will be honored by both Miami and Florida Atlantic when the schools face each other for the first time to open the college football season Friday.
After all, the programs have the same father.
Schnellenberger led the Hurricanes into the spotlight by winning the school's first national championship in 1983, 15 years before he began building Florida Atlantic's program from scratch.
Schnellenberger will be the honorary captain for both teams. Dozens of his former Miami players are expected to attend for a 30th anniversary celebration of the school's first title -- a move Schnellenberger calls "putting the sugar on the cake of this game."
"That was the genesis of the game, that we would celebrate what he has done for both programs, really starting both programs at the end of the day," Miami coach Al Golden said. "He's a man who owes me nothing but treats me with great respect and imparts great wisdom every time I see him. We're blessed to have him in our family. I know FAU probably feels the same way."
Schnellenberger coached Miami for five years, with the Hurricanes' win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl after the 1983 season his most memorable, and his last. He left not long after that game to take the reins of a USFL franchise that never got off the ground, and has often said he regrets that move.
"It's a thrilling experience to see this series come to maturity now, come to pass," Schnellenberger said. "It's going to happen. We talked about this game for a long time. This is the birth of a very important rivalry series that's about to unfold."
The Hurricanes and Owls will meet play three times over the next four years and, even though he follows Miami, he's rooting for FAU.
"This is my team," Schnellenberger said.
FAU coach Carl Pelini also has ties to the backstory behind this game. Not only did he replace Schnellenberger, the only other coach in FAU's history, but he came to the Owls from Nebraska -- where his brother Bo Pelini is the head coach.
"Coach Schnellenberger, he had an amazing career," said Pelini, who also revealed that he sacked Bernie Kosar -- Miami's quarterback in that Orange Bowl -- when they were high schoolers. "He built that program. It's something that will go down in history as an amazing accomplishment, what he was able to do for Miami football and the university in general."
Schnellenberger played for and later coached with Bear Bryant, recruited Joe Namath to Alabama and ran the offense as part of Don Shula's staff for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team to finish an NFL season unbeaten.
But his legacy, said Miami assistant Art Kehoe -- who played at the school before working under Schnellenberger -- is what he did with the Hurricanes.
"My junior year, we voted 6-5 to keep football. We were going to drop football and he took it from there to a national title," Kehoe said. "The guy's an unbelievable coach. ... Heck, we couldn't pay the phone bill. And now we've got five national titles and played for 11 of them and he's the main fabric of all that. He started it all."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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