Howard Schnellenberger, who led the Miami Hurricanes football team to their first national championship while setting the stage for one of the top dynasties in the sport, died Saturday at the age of 87.
Schnellenberger spent five seasons on the Coral Gables campus, arriving in 1979 tasked with turning around a program that had reportedly been in discussions to be discontinued thanks to dwindling attendance and piling losses on the field.
After going 5-6 his first season, Schnellenberger led the ‘Canes to their first bowl game in 13 years during the 1980 season. Schnellenberger's turnaround project was capped three years later with a one point win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl that captured the first title for UM.
Schnellenberger shocked fans of the Hurricanes when he left the school following the season to take the job with a USFL franchise reportedly set to move to Miami. The move never took place and Schnellenberger was forced to take other jobs at Louisville and one season at Oklahoma.
In 2001, Schnellenberger led the FAU Owls in their inaugural season and spent 11 seasons at the Boca Raton school, coaching the Owls to two bowls wins and the only conference championship he ever won as a head coach during the 2007 season.
Born in Indiana but raised in Kentucky, he starred for his home state Wildcats in college before a coaching career that included stops at Alabama under legendary coach “Bear” Bryant.
Schnellenberger spent seven seasons as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins under the late Don Shula, where he was offensive coordinator of the 17-0 Super Bowl champions in 1972.
Those who played for Schnellenberger at UM expressed their sympathies on social media Saturday:
Even one of UM's biggest rivals, the Florida State Seminoles, expressed their sympathies with a post showing a picture of Schnellenberger with longtime friend and former FSU head coach Bobby Bowden:
Schnellenberger is survived by his wife, Beverlee, and was preceded in death by their son Stephen, who passed away in 2008.
A private, family only funeral mass will be held.