By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Howard Schnellenberger was an All-American
tight end when Bear Bryant practically invented football in
Kentucky during the 1950s.
Schnellenberger eventually followed in Bryant's footsteps,
winning a national title at Miami in 1983, then doing a little
inventing of his own during a decade coaching in Louisville, his
hometown, from 1985 to 1994.
He led the Cardinals to a Fiesta Bowl win over Alabama in 1991,
a victory that eventually paved the way for the building of Papa
John's Cardinal Stadium. His name adorns the building that stands
behind the stadium's north end zone, a tribute to the man who once
famously intoned "Louisville is on a collision course with a
national championship, the only variable is time."
Schnellenberger even did what some once thought was impossible:
creating the annual "Governor's Cup" showdown between Louisville
and his alma mater, a game that's become a heated rivalry.
The 73-year-old Schnellenberger is at it again, trying to create
a program from the ground up at Florida Atlantic (3-1), which plays
at 14th-ranked Kentucky (4-0) on Saturday.
It's a game Schnellenberger has been trying to organize for
years, one he now hopes would have been played before the Wildcats
got off to one of the best starts in the program's history.
"We talked about this game some eight years ago and were
planning to play it earlier and I wish we had gotten it played
earlier," Schnellenberger said, chuckling in his thick baritone.
"Now I find my old alma mater is at the height of its proficiency
just as we get into town."
It's a proficiency that in some small way could be traced back
to Schnellenberger, who worked with former Kentucky coach Jerry
Claiborne to convince state high school football coaches the key to
Kentucky getting its act together on the gridiron lay in spring
practices and year-round conditioning.
"We were able to convince the high school coaches association
that a spring practice was very important for the development of
high school football in the state of Kentucky," Schnellenberger
said. "I see that is has been a very positive thing."
Schnellenberger points to Louisville and Kentucky's rise to
prominence behind the play of Bluegrass born quarterbacks Brian
Brohm and Andre Woodson as proof that football has finally arrived
in basketball country.
"I see the best quarterbacks in the country are more apt to
come from the state of Kentucky than they are from Texas or
California, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida," he said. "You see the
rosters at Louisville, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio State and some
other and you see they are recruits from the state of Kentucky."
The architect behind two of college football's most startling
success stories at Miami and Louisville hopes he's at it again with
the Owls. Florida Atlantic didn't begin playing until 2001, and
Schnellenberger went about building the same way he always has: by
being open to playing anyone, anywhere at anytime.
The Owls, who play in the Sun Belt Conference, have already
beaten Minnesota and lost to Oklahoma State this year. Later dates
include games against No. 4 Florida and No. 18 South Florida.
"When you start a new football team, it's even more essential
that you play well over your head," he said. "I call it 'advance
training' because we can't get it anywhere else except on the field
of battle during the course of the season."
Schnellenberger thinks his team will be tested often against a
Wildcats teams he said may be among the greatest in school history.
Then again, he's simply grateful for the opportunity.
"We're indebted to the university for playing this game," he
said. "People don't have to play those that are trying to rise and
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)