Howard Schnellenberger, the 77-year-old Florida Atlantic coach
who led Miami to its first national championship, has decided to
retire from coaching after this season, a person familiar with the
decision told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because
Schnellenberger is calling a news conference later Thursday to
reveal his reasons for retiring.
Schnellenberger is in the final year of his contract with FAU
and has said often in recent months that he was not planning to
evaluate his coaching future after 2011. School officials said they
did not have any immediate comment on what he plans to say, other
than noting it was an "important announcement."
Schnellenberger is 157-140-3 as a collegiate head coach. He will
be with the Owls for the entire 2011 season, including any possible
Best known perhaps for taking Miami to the 1983 national title,
which started a run of five championships in 19 seasons for the
Hurricanes, Schnellenberger is revered around much of South
Florida. He founded FAU's program in 1998, taking the Owls to the
Division I-AA national semifinals in 2003 and leading them into the
ranks of major college football a year later.
From the outset of his time at FAU, Schnellenberger stressed the
need for the Owls to have an on-campus stadium. A deal was finally
struck for that to happen, and the building will open Oct. 15 when
Florida Atlantic hosts Western Kentucky. Schnellenberger beamed
last week when the school officially turned on the lights in the
new 30,000-seat stadium for the first time, letting the coach throw
the switch as a tribute.
"Three university presidents were involved in this, but one
coach," FAU President Mary Jane Saunders said that night,
Schnellenberger by her side. "And it's coach Schnellenberger that
made this happen. The vision that this university that he came to
after an incredibly illustrious career. We're grateful to have him.
He's done a fabulous job with all the guys and I'm just so pleased
I could share this day with you."
Schnellenberger said helping get the stadium built was one of
his "greatest accomplishments" from a lifetime of football.
"This process has been truly amazing," he said last week.
Schnellenberger has been part of college football for nearly 60
years, starting when he played at Kentucky for the legendary Paul
"Bear" Bryant. His coaching career began in 1959 as an assistant
at Kentucky, then Alabama - where he helped convince Joe Namath to
play for Bryant and the Crimson Tide - then eventually jumping to
the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams in 1966.
He was on Don Shula's staff in Miami for the Dolphins' perfect
season in 1972, after which Schnellenberger became head coach of
the Baltimore Colts. He returned to the Dolphins in 1975, then got
the job leading the Hurricanes in 1979 - telling people at the time
he thought Miami would win a national championship within five
And on that front, he delivered.
Schnellenberger went 41-16 at Miami, his last game there a 31-30
win over Nebraska on Jan. 1, 1984, sealing that season's national
title. He left after that season for an offer with the USFL, a deal
that fell apart before he ever coached a game in that fledgling
league, so he remained in the college game at Louisville in 1985.
He spent one year at Oklahoma in 1995, then returned to South
Florida to build Florida Atlantic's program. The school played its
first game in 2001, and won bowl games in 2007 (along with the Sun
Belt Conference title) and 2008, pushing Schnellenberger's record
to 6-0 in bowls as a head coach.
"He's a legend for a reason," FAU defensive back Marcus
Bartels said. "That's what he does. He builds programs. And he's
good at it. So that's why he's a legend."