Legendary FAU Football Coach Howard Schnellenberger dies at 87
By: Dale King
Iconic football Coach Howard Schnellenberger, nationally known for reviving several college gridirons programs, contributing to the Miami Dolphins, particularly during their famed 1972 undefeated season and launched the football program at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton two decades ago, died Saturday, March 27, according to his family. He was 87 years old.
“It is with heavy hearts that Florida Atlantic University announces, on behalf of the Schnellenberger family, the passing of a dad, a grandpa, a husband and a legendary coach,” said a statement issued by FAU Saturday.
No cause of death was listed, but the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the famed football mentor had been in declining health. He suffered a subdural hematoma from a fall last summer, requiring hospitalization, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
His widow, Beverlee Schnellenberger, also offered her comments through FAU, where her husband shepherded a fledgling football team from its humble beginnings around 1999 to a league-leading squad and bowl contender.
“Howard always allowed me to be a part of his football life,” she said. “Watching him on the sidelines was an opportunity that gave us a special closeness – win or lose – that not many wives get.”
“Even though he never smiled, he was always smiling in his heart. We loved all the moves and challenges. I will miss his warm heart, his warm hands and soft kisses.”
“Howard always treated me special, like a queen, and was truly a husband that every Canadian girl dream of. You will always be my love, now and forever. I’m proud to be your wife. You were a great leader of men and the leader of our lives.”
Beverly, who said she is grateful for the 61 years of marriage to Howard, also expressed the Schnellenberger family’s appreciation, thanking those who have sent love and prayers, especially through the last several weeks and months.
The couple met in 1958 and moved through life with Howard referring to Beverlee as either his bride or his assistant head coach.
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer also expressed his prayers and regrets in a Twitter post: “So saddened by the passing of Coach Howard Schnellenberger. He touched countless lives and his legacy will live on long beyond the gridiron. He transformed schools and communities, and FAU is not the same without his work. Deepest condolences to Coach’s family, friends and many fans.”
Schnellenberger was born to German American parents in Saint Meinrad, Ind., says Wikipedia. He graduated from Flaget High School in Louisville, Ky., where he played football, basketball and baseball before earning a scholarship to the University of Kentucky.
After that, he also served as offensive coordinator under his college coach Bear Bryant at Alabama and, in 1966, took a job in the National Football League as receivers coach of the Los Angeles Rams under George Allen.
Don Shula hired him as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, where he helped lead the team to a perfect 1972 season and a Super Bowl victory.
Schnellenberger provided the momentum for the resurgence of the University of Miami football program that considered dropping to a lower league when he arrived in 1979. He quickly turned it into one of the top programs in the sport. Its 7-4 record in 1982 was followed by an 11-1 season and the national championship in 1983.
He returned to Louisville in 1985 where he became football coach for the college grid team. During his 10 years as head coach, Louisville won a Fiesta Bowl and Schellenberger spearheaded the construction of an on-campus stadium. The current football complex bears his name.
Schellenberger got one more opportunity to coach — in the state where he made his name. In 1998, FAU – known then as mainly a commuter school — wanted to start a football program. Schellenberger was chosen as FAU director of football operations his familiar pipe for health reasons, but still wore his trademark sports coat, suspenders and tie on the sideline.
During his time as head coach, FAU went to two bowl games, and he got an on-campus stadium built.
When Schellenberger retired in 2011, the man known by most people as “Coach,” had compiled an overall record of 158-151-3. He continued his association with FAU as a football “ambassador.” His frequent visits within the Boca Raton community may him a familiar face and buttressed the university’s grid team. He was often seen with Owlsley, one of the team’s two mascots. The other is Hoot.
The gridiron at FAU stadium bears his name as well, and a statue of the football legend stands at the entryway to the field.