Howard Schnellenberger, legendary school soccer coach, dies at age 87


LOUISVILLE — Howard Schnellenberger was a visionary. He noticed potentialities the place others may solely see issues. His life was a testomony to desires and audacity, to beliefs so brazen as to ask skepticism and encourage laughter.

Schnellenberger, who rebuilt applications at Miami and Louisville and led the Hurricanes to a nationwide title in 1983, died Saturday at 87.

His teaching profession spanned six many years and included stops at Alabama, the place he was an assistant below Bear Bryant and helped recruit Joe Namath, to assistant gigs within the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams and Miami Dolphins to a short-lived stint because the Baltimore Colts coach.

That winding path introduced him to Coral Gables, Florida, the place he put the Hurricanes on the map and kick-started the faculty recreation as we all know it right now — placing an emphasis on pace, health and recruiting.

Schnellenberger attracted consideration with daring pronouncements, and backed them up with unprecedented outcomes

With or with out his trademark pipe, Schnellenberger was well-known for blowing smoke. He declared Louisville to be on a “collision course” with a nationwide championship not lengthy after former athletics director Invoice Olsen feared “we have been on a collision course to dropping soccer.”

“He introduced some type of big-time really feel to it, just like the Music Man,” WHAS’ Terry Meiners mentioned. “There was a particular temper swing. We didn’t fairly get a swagger, however I feel everyone held their heads greater after being a laughingstock.”

Louisville soccer was at a low ebb when Schnellenberger returned to his hometown to educate the Cardinals in 1985. Caught taking part in earlier than sparse crowds in a decrepit minor-league baseball stadium, mired in a streak that will in the end prolong to 9 consecutive dropping seasons, the outlook was so grim former Board of Trustees chairman A. Wallace “Skip” Grafton had beneficial the board take a tough have a look at soccer “to see if it is value it.”

However simply as he had executed on the College of Miami, Schnellenberger turned this system round. He led Louisville to its first 10-win season, its first New Yr’s Day bowl recreation and blowout victories over model names together with Alabama and Texas.

“I feel with out query he resurrected this system,” mentioned former Cardinals quarterback Jeff Brohm, now the pinnacle coach at Purdue. “He offered hope, optimism at a time the place there was discuss of presumably shutting issues down. He not solely stored it going however took it to some extent when he dropped it off, it was at its highest stage.”

Louisville has but to finish the championship “collision course” Schnellenberger envisioned — as his Miami Hurricanes had executed in 1983 — however its aggressive profile, campus stadium and Atlantic Coast Convention affiliation can all be traced to strides made throughout Schnellenberger’s 10-year tenure.

“He simply has a presence about him that makes you imagine that no matter it’s you’re attempting to perform you can accomplish it,” mentioned Craig Swabek, who performed and coached for Schnellenberger at Louisville. “You actually assume you’re going to do no matter it’s he’s attempting to perform: win a recreation, begin a enterprise, construct a stadium. He simply had a method of sturdy management.

“He was nearly like this loopy snake-oil salesman (and) a straightforward goal for pundits. However whenever you have been with him everyday, you began to see his plan. He had a grasp plan.”

A soccer, basketball and baseball teammate of Paul Hornung’s at Louisville’s Flaget Excessive College, Schnellenberger went to Kentucky to play for Bryant and would change into a first-team All-America finish below Bryant’s successor, Blanton Collier.

He later served as an assistant coach on three of Bryant’s nationwide championship groups at Alabama, was entrusted with the high-stakes recruitment of Joe Namath, and went as far as to cover the quarterback from rival coaches by stashing him at a relative’s residence.

His success at Alabama led to NFL alternatives below Corridor of Famers George Allen (Los Angeles Rams) and Don Shula (Miami Dolphins). Coordinating the Dolphins’ offense throughout their 17-0 season in 1972 led to a quick, turbulent stint as head coach of the Baltimore Colts, which started with the New York Instances declaring Schnellenberger was “considered a sure success on this precarious enterprise,” and ended three video games into his second season when Colts’ proprietor Robert Irsay demanded a mid-game quarterback change that Schnellenberger refused.

He returned to the Dolphins, aiding Shula for one more 4 years, earlier than bringing his gravelly bluster and an NFL-style offense to the faculty campus in Coral Gables.

“At Miami, the very first thing he did was say, ‘a bowl is the aim,’ “ mentioned Karl Schmitt, then a graduate assistant on Miami’s sports activities data workers, now president of the Louisville Sports activities Fee. ”That was again in a time when there weren’t so many bowls. You may go 8-3 and never go anyplace.

“I went to the preseason soccer luncheon in 1980 and I had no thought what he was going to say. I used to be sitting again there with the native TV guys and so they have been laughing; ‘He’s smoking one thing.’ ”

However with elite quarterbacks in Jim Kelly after which Bernie Kosar, a punishing apply routine borrowed from Bryant, and an consideration to element that included scouting the angle of the solar’s rays earlier than highway video games, Schnellenberger rapidly modified each expectations and outcomes.

“We have been up at 6 o’clock within the morning until 10 o’clock at evening doing nothing however soccer,’’ mentioned Artwork Kehoe, a Miami captain and assistant coach below Schnellenberger. “That self-discipline instantly changed into wins.

“Practices have been unbelievably robust. You both needed it unhealthy otherwise you left. We had lots of people who left. He informed us, ‘You keep, we’ll win.’ ”

Schnellenberger realized his bowl aim in his second season at Miami, and constructed a sturdy recruiting base by drawing an imaginary line throughout Florida and declaring the southern portion, “The State of Miami.” By 1983, his grasp plan culminated with an upset of No. 1 Nebraska within the Orange Bowl and a nationwide championship.

Had he remained at Miami, Kehoe says Schnellenberger may need gained as many as 10 nationwide championships. “If anyone would have executed it, it could have been him,” Kehoe mentioned. “He was one thing else, man.”

University of Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger holds the 1981 Peach Bowl trophy aloft after his team defeated Virginia Tech. (AP Photo/Joe Sebo)

College of Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger holds the 1981 Peach Bowl trophy aloft after his staff defeated Virginia Tech. (AP Picture/Joe Sebo)

As a substitute, Schnellenberger left for a job that by no means materialized, agreeing to run a USFL franchise anticipated to relocate from Washington to Miami. The deal collapsed after the USFL introduced a shift to a fall schedule and Schnellenberger selected to not comply with new possession to Orlando.

This left him accessible as Louisville appeared for a coach who may pump life into its flatlining soccer program.

Regardless of Schnellenberger’s conspicuous credentials – the nationwide championship at Miami, three extra as an Alabama assistant, the Dolphins’ excellent season – Cardinals followers weren’t instantly inclined to droop their disbelief.

Obstacles have been quite a few and systemic. With out Miami’s teeming expertise pool, Schnellenberger’s Louisville basis work went slowly. His first three seasons confirmed solely incremental progress, from 2-9 to 3-8 to 3-7-1. The Cardinals have been shut out 5 instances in these 33 video games, and 21 of their 24 losses have been by double digits.

What the scoreboard did not present was a system taking form. Earlier than the NCAA instituted a 20-hour-per-week restrict on supervised actions in 1991 — and sure lengthy afterward — Schnellenberger pushed his gamers to extraordinary limits. Brohm remembers assembly a referee on an airplane who noticed Louisville scrimmaging as he left to officiate a spring recreation at Pittsburgh, flew there and again, labored the sport, and located Louisville nonetheless scrimmaging upon his return.

“We have been identified for all six quarterbacks to get about 50 makes an attempt in each scrimmage,” Brohm mentioned. “We had a whole lot of reps. (Schnellenberger) wasn’t scared to take his entire Saturday and play soccer all day lengthy.”

Schnellenberger would win all six of his bowl video games between Miami, Louisville and his final cease, Florida Atlantic. That his total report in school soccer is a extra modest 158-151-3 is most simply attributable to the sorry state of these three applications on the time he took over.

Efforts to raise him to the School Soccer Corridor of Fame, endorsed by each Alabama’s Nick Saban and the New England Patriots’ Invoice Belichick, have been annoyed by standards that embrace a .600 successful share for coaches.

Maybe Schnellenberger’s greatest probability to pad his numbers was when he left Louisville for the College of Oklahoma in 1995. His exit was prompted, at the very least partially, by U of L President Donald Swain’s choice to affix Convention USA. And, after all, due to Oklahoma’s appreciable cachet in school soccer.

“Possibly it’s time I obtained on the elevator midway up the mountain,” he mentioned. “Now, I can focus in on the summit.”

However as an alternative of embracing the historical past and traditions of one of many recreation’s nice powers, Schnellenberger succeeded primarily in alienating directors and followers.

Watching the Sooners stumble within the Copper Bowl earlier than he took cost, he declared the gamers to be “out of practice, unorganized and unmotivated.” After boasting about books being written and flicks made about his time in Norman, he resigned after a single 5-5-1 season.

“We got here out of there not as revered and revered as once we got here in,” he mentioned later.

In Louisville, nonetheless, Schnellenberger’s fame is basically intact. U of L’s soccer complicated bears his identify and its soccer program bears the stamp of the huckster who delivered hope.

Contact Tim Sullivan at 502-582-4650, tsullivan@courier-journal.com or @TimSullivan714

This text initially appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Howard Schnellenberger, legendary school soccer coach, dies at 87





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