Breaking News
More () »

Jacksonville's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Jacksonville, Florida | FirstCoastNews.com

Legendary college football coach Howard Schnellenberger dies

Schnellenberger, who got his start under Bear Bryant, won a national championship as head coach of Miami during the Hurricanes dominance in the 1980's.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Legendary college football coach Howard Schnellenberger died Saturday, Florida Atlantic University announced. He was 87.

Schnellenberger most notably led the Miami Hurricanes to its first national championship in school history in 1983, ushering in a decade of dominance for the Hurricanes. 

Born in Indiana, Schnellenberger became an All-American at Kentucky in 1955, where he later became an assistant coach. 

In 1961, Schnellenberger became the offensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide under Paul 'Bear' Bryant. While at Alabama, Schnellenberger led Bryant's offense to three national championships in 1961, 1964 and 1965.

He left Alabama to join the Los Angeles Rams and eventually became the offensive coordinator under another coaching legend, Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins. In 1972, Schnellenberger helped coach the Dolphins to the only perfect season in NFL history.

His first head coaching job came with a brief stint leading the Baltimore Colts. However, he would make his greatest mark as the head coach of the University of Miami.

Unveiling his "five-year plan," Schnellenberger promised to build the struggling program into a powerhouse by aggressively recruiting the talent of South Florida and dedicating his offense to a more pass-oriented playbook at a time teams still rarely threw the ball at all.

Schnellenberger won his only championship as a head coach in 1983, when the Hurricanes defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and were crowned national champions in the final bowls.

Schnellenberger left the Hurricanes to pursue a position with USFL. When that didn't work, he became head coach at Louisville. He eventually accepted a job at Oklahoma before he returned to South Florida to coach the newly established Florida Atlantic Owls football team.

Eventually, Schnellenberger would lead FAU to a Sun Belt Championship and the school's first ever bowl game and bowl victory before retiring after the 2011 season. In 2014, FAU named its stadium after Schnellenberger.

Notably, though he only coached in six bowl games, Schnellenberger went undefeated in those six games.

Schnellenberger is survived by his wife of 61 years.