Howard Schnellenberger, College Coach Who Built Winners, Dies at 87

Howard Schnellenberger, College Coach Who Built Winners, Dies at 87

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Howard Schnellenberger, who built the offense for the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ unbeaten Super Bowl champions, then revived downtrodden football programs as head coach at the Universities of Miami and Louisville, died on Saturday. He was 87.

His death was announced by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, whose football program he had created. The university did not say where he died or give the cause.

Brash and supremely confident and a distinctive figure on the sidelines, usually wearing a sports jacket and tie and sporting a bushy mustache, Schnellenberger was eager to defy the odds.

And he was very much the taskmaster.

“Football is the last place, outside of the military, where we have an opportunity to develop the proposition that the team is more important than the individual,” he told Sports Illustrated after putting his 1995 Oklahoma Sooners — the third of four college teams he coached — through a grueling spring workout.

He played for Kentucky under Bear Bryant and Blanton Collier, as an end, and was named a first-team All-American by The Associated Press in 1955. He was an assistant coach under Collier at Kentucky in 1959 and 1960 and under Bryant at Alabama from 1961 through 1965.

Schnellenberger recruited Joe Namath and Ken Stabler for the Crimson Tide. When he went to Beaver Falls, Pa., to induce Namath to play for Bryant, he once told The Sun Sentinel of South Florida, “a three-day recruiting trip turned into 10 days,” since Namath and his family took some persuading.

“I was out of money and had to buy him a plane ticket to return with me,” he recalled. “I wrote a bad check to Eastern Airlines to get both of us to Alabama.”

When Stabler asked Schnellenberger to bring a small gift for his mother when he was wooing Stabler for Bryant, Schnellenberger recalled, “I took his mom a fifth of bourbon.”

Schnellenberger was an offensive coach on Bryant’s national championship Alabama teams of 1961, ’64 and ’65. He became the receivers coach for George Allen’s Los Angeles Rams in 1966, then was hired by Shula as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 1970.

Coming off the Dolphins’ unbeaten season, he was named the Baltimore Colts’ head coach in 1973. But after the Colts went 4-10 and then got off to an 0-3 start the next season, he was fired. He was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator again from 1975 to 1978.

Credit…Joe Sebo/Associated Press

Schnellenberger had a career record of 158-151-3 as a collegiate head coach. He was 6-0 in bowl games, coaching Miami, Louisville and Florida Atlantic to two bowl triumphs apiece. He retired a second and final time after Florida Atlantic’s 2011 season.

He is survived by his wife, Beverlee; his sons Stuart and Timothy; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His son Stephen died in 2008.

Miami and Florida Atlantic met for the first time in August 2013. The Hurricanes won, 34-6, with Schnellenberger and players from his 1983 Miami team on hand to mark the 30th anniversary of their national championship season. Schnellenberger was both a winner and a loser at that 2013 matchup: He was the honorary captain for both teams.


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