ATLANTA - On Saturday, college football lost a legend. Former Miami, Louisville and Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who developed a reputation as a 'program builder' at all three stops, died at the age of 87.
From his former players Bernie Kosar, Jeff Brohm and Romen Oben, current and former coaches in Mark Richt, Willie Taggart and Scott Satterfield, to most of college football media, many across the sport took to social media to pay their respects following his passing.
Given his track record, it's not hard to understand why. Without him, Miami does not become the 'The U', and Hurricanes football quite possibly gets cut altogether. The same could be said for Louisville. Not to mention that, quite literally, Florida Atlantic football does not exist without him.
Couple the fact that he helped recruit quarterback Joe Namath to Alabama while serving under legendary head coach Bear Bryant, and was the offensive coordinator for the 1972 Miami Dolphins—a team who is still celebrated nearly 50 years later—and it is hard to tell the story of football without at some point mentioning his name.
It's what makes his exclusion from the College Football Hall of Fame that much more ludicrous. What's worse, even with his extensive resume, he isn't even eligible for induction. Outside of age, the National Football Foundation, who operates the Hall of Fame, has just one eligibility requirement for coaches, listed as follows:
"He must have been a head coach for a minimum of 10 years and coached at least 100 games with a .600 winning percentage"
Schnellenberger easily qualifies for the first two parts, having been a head coach for 24 seasons and 277 total games. It's the final bit where hid quest to reach the Hall reaches a snag. With an overall record of 141-133-3, he has a winning percentage of .514—short of the .600 required for consideration.
It's this one prerequisite that is preventing him from immortal enshrinement. But as the saying goes, rules are made to be broken. Howard Schnellenberger deserves to be in the College Football Hall of Fame, and the National Football Foundation should rule him as eligible for selection despite not being 'qualified' for it.
Sans the lone year at Oklahoma, Schnellenberger was a winner everywhere he went, especially beyond the win/loss column. As previously stated, he not only developed a reputation for turning programs around, but lifting them to unprecedented heights.
It was none more obvious than when he took over as the head coach of Miami in in 1979. Prior to his arrival, the Hurricanes were on the precipice of dropping football altogether due to financial troubles.
In just five seasons, he compiled a 41-16 record and led Miami to their first national championship in 1983 vs. Nebraska. Not only that, but he forever changed recruiting in the South Florida area, scouring what he called 'The State of Miami' for the best recruits south of I-4.
He worked a similar miracle when he came home and took the reins at Louisville in 1985. Like Miami, the Cardinals were also debating the feasibility of their football program as they drew sparse crowds and played in a minor league baseball stadium.
After a rough three years to start his tenure there, Schnellenberger started to find success, and eventually guided Louisville to their best season in school history. The Cardinals went 10-1-1 in 1990, capped off with a 34-7 win over Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl, and their first appearance in the final AP Poll at No. 11. He also played a crucial role in the eventual opening of Cardinal Stadium in 1998.
Unlike Miami and Louisville, Schnellenberger is the sole reason Florida Atlantic football exists in the first place. Named their first director of football operations, he raised over $13 million for the program, and even named himself their first head coach for their first season in 2001.
The Owls made the Division I-AA semifinals in just their third season of existence, then after a single year as an FBS independent, transitioned to the Sun Belt, where they won the conference championship in 2007.
By the time of his retirement from coaching following the 2011 season, he had compiled a perfect 6-0 record in bowl games—the most bowl wins without a loss by any coach in major college football history.
For what it's worth, he is also one of five coaches since the end of World War II to have won a national title for a school that had never previously finished in the AP Top 5. He is the only one of those five not in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Howard Schnellenberger is more than just his win-loss record. He is the grandfather of not one, not two, but three FBS programs. Miami does not become college football royalty without him, Louisville might be playing at downtown at Louisville Slugger Field without him, and Florida Atlantic might have never fielded a team at all without him.
If that does not constitute a Hall of Famer in the eyes of the National Football Foundation, then that is more of an indictment on them than Schnellenberger.
They already failed him by not electing him to the College Football Hall of Fame while he was still with us. They need to do right by his family and the programs he built, and adjust the win percentage rule to allow him his rightful place among college football's legends.
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