FAU hosts event to honor Howard Schnellenberger

Schnellenberger is known as the “father of FAU football.”


Photo by Bryce Totz.

Bryce Totz, Staff Writer

On Friday, Sept. 10, FAU held an event at the football stadium to honor the life of coach Howard Schnellenberger. Schnellenberger passed away earlier this year on March 27 at the age of 87.

“Coach Schnellenberger was truly the father of FAU football,” Vice President and Director of Athletics Brian White said.

The event started at 7 p.m. with a tribute montage on the scoreboard, which lasted until about 7:30 p.m. The main event lasted about four hours (including a short rain delay). 

Schnellenberger played football at the University of Kentucky, and then joined the coaching staff at Alabama under Bear Bryant. After Alabama, Schnellenger took a job with the Los Angeles Rams, followed by a stint with the Miami Dolphins (including their perfect season). Following the 1972 perfect season, he took a head coaching position with the Baltimore Colts for one season, before returning to Miami. 

Running back Eugene “Mercury” Morris and strong safety Dick Andersen played on the 1972 Dolphins, and they were present at the event. 

In 1979, Schnellenberger took a head coach position at a struggling University of Miami program. He led them to a national championship in 1983. After that, he took a position at the University of Louisville for a season, then he spent a short amount of time in Oklahoma. 

Schnellenberger finally arrived at FAU in 1998, as he was hired to raise funds for a brand new football team. FAU’s first season was in 2001, and he coached at the school for 10 years.

“Coach Schnellenberger’s Owls’ became the fastest team to ever go from a startup program to postseason play,” White said. “The Owls reached the Division I AA Semifinals, hosting a semifinal game on national television.”

In 2007, FAU was also the fastest program in NCAA history to be invited to a bowl game. They won their first bowl game appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.

The event hosted many guest speakers in his honor such as players, coaches, friends, family members, and more. 

“When I walk around this campus and I see those 30,000 students talking to each other, meandering through the breezeway, finding their own pathway, [Schnellenberger] has given them the road map,” President John Kelly said. “In 1999 when he agreed to be our first football coach, very few people outside this area were familiar with FAU, but when the news spread that this legend would lead this program, we were thrust into the national spotlight.” 

Some of the speakers that sent in videos because they could not attend included head coach Willie Taggart, retired quarterbacks Joe Namath and Bob Griese, tight end Marv Fleming, Senator Mitch McConnell, etc. 

“Coach, I know you’re looking down on everyone,” Taggart said. “Just know that you made a huge huge mark on a lot of people’s lives in a positive way and we all appreciate you.”

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer declared Sept. 10 Howard Schnellenberger Day. Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and FAU alum George Linley announced that the Boca Raton Bowl trophy will be named after Schnellenberger.

Howard Schnellenberger’s wife Beverly was also present and made comments towards the end of the event. She was emotional, asking that everybody move on, as Howard is no longer with us. 

Bryce Totz is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected], or tweet him @brycetotz.