Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University
When the College Football Hall of Fame released its list of 2021 nominees, one glaring omission reared its ugly head once again. Coaching legend Howard Schnellenberger, known most for his time with the Miami Hurricanes in the 1980s, isn’t likely to find his name on the list in the coming years.
The College Football Hall of Fame makes the induction policy pretty straight forward for coaches. A coach is eligible three years after retirement. Coaches are immediately eligible upon retirement provided the coach is 70 years old or older. The coach must have been a head football coach for at least 10 seasons and coached 100 or more games with a .600 winning percentage.
The last criterion should prevent Schnellengberger from getting a spot. Coaching for 24 years and 277 total football games, Schnellenberger has a career coaching record of 141-133-3 (.514). On the other hands, coaches like Jerry Claiborne and William Anderson Alexander also fall short of the seemingly arbitrary .600 winning percentage and still find themselves in the Hall of Fame.
Although Schnellenberger falls short of the criterion, the focus for a Hall of Fame should be on choosing the best candidates who have made an impact on college football that goes far beyond the football field. In that case, few people have made as much of an impact on the game.
Schnellenberger is the godfather of the Miami Hurricanes football program. Under Schellenberger, the Hurricanes went from 5-6 in 1979 to 11-1 in 1983, when the program won its first national championship. In the Orange Bowl, Schnellenberger’s teams won 25 games and had 14 television appearances. Schnellenberger finished his Coral Gables tenure with a 41-16 coaching record. His .719 winning percentage is fourth all-time in school history.
In 1993, Schnellenberger was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.
After a short stint in the USFL, Schnellenberger took the job at his hometown Louisville. Before taking over, Louisville had its last winning season in 1978. Although Louisville won just eight games in over its first three seasons under Schnellenberger, he led the Cardinals to an 8-3 finish in 1988.
Two years later, the Cardinals were 10-1-1 while finishing in the top 15 for the first time ever. In his 10 seasons at Louisville, Schnellenberger had a record of 54-56-2.
During his time at Louisville, Schnellenberger pushed for a football complex. The goal was finally recognized with the building of the Howard L. Schnellenberger Complex at Cardinal Stadium.
When Howard Schnellenberger took over the director of football operations position at Florida Atlantic, the team had nothing. Schnellenberger was tasked with coming up with a strategic plan, and naming a head coach. He chose himself and led FAU into a brave new era. By the time of their first practice in 2000, the Owls had just 22 scholarship players and almost 160 walk-ons.
In just their third season, the Owls went 11-3 and advanced to the I-AA semifinals before making the transition to FBS football. In their transitional year, the Owls went 9-3 but were not eligible for a bowl game or the FCS playoffs.
After just two seasons in the Sun Belt Conference, the Owls won their first conference championship and secured their first-ever bowl invite. They’d go on to beat Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl. The following year, the Owls defeated Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl to complete a second straight winning season at the FBS level.
Although Schnellenberger had just 41 wins as FAU’s head coach in FBS football, it’s hard to know where the Owls would stand without Schnellenberger’s impact. Not only did Schnellenberger win the program’s first two bowl games but he also lobbied for an on-campus stadium, which broke ground in 2010.
There is no question that Howard Schnellenberger should be in the College Football Hall of Fame. Even though the criteria is against him, there are few coaches with the same reputation as a “program builder”.
During Willie Taggart’s introductory press conference, Taggart said that Schnellenberger “should be in [the College Football Hall of Fame] already.”
Though it’s overdue, it’s not too late to give Schnellenberger a spot in Atlanta. After all, it’s where he belongs.