Howard Schnellenberger, the architect of the FAU football program and head coach who led the University of Miami to its first national championship, has died, FAU announced on Saturday. He was 87 years old.
Schnellenberger's career in coaching spanned more than 50 years, starting as an assistant in 1959 at his alma mater Kentucky and ending in 2011 with Florida Atlantic, where he started the university's football program and turned it into a Division I program in four seasons.
Perhaps his most renowned coaching achievement came in leading the University of Miami to its first national championship just years after the program's future was being reconsidered by university officials.
After serving as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins under Don Shula, Schnellenberger was hired by the Hurricanes in 1979 to turn around their football program. Five seasons later, Schnellenberger coached Miami to an upset victory over No. 1 Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl to win the national championship.
In 1985, Schnellenberger returned to his hometown where he reinvigorated a fledgling University of Louisville football program, culminating in a win over Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl.
"Howard always allowed me to be a part of his football life," Schnellenberger's wife Beverlee said in a statement released by FAU. "Watching him on the sidelines was an opportunity that gave us a special closeness—win or lose—that not many wives get.
"... Howard always treated me special, like a queen, and was truly a husband that every Canadian girl dreams 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."
Schnellenberger is survived by his wife of 61 years, Beverlee, sons Stuart and Tim, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Stephen. Schnellenberger's cause of death was not released.
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