Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

BOCA RATON Before Howard Schnellenberger called the first play at Florida Atlantic, his longtime assistant, Gary Nord, had to give it to him.

When Schnellenberger was named coach at FAU in 1998, one of the first things he did was ask Nord, who was then the offensive coordinator at Texas-El Paso, to send him a copy of the playbook the two compiled during the 13 years they had coached together.

"We had developed it over the years," Nord said. "It still had the Oklahoma logo on it, because that was the last time we were together. He had done so much for me, I didn't hesitate to get it to him."

And Schnellenberger didn't hesitate to hire Nord as quarterbacks coach after Nord was fired as head coach from UTEP following the 2003 season.

This season, Nord, 48, was promoted to offensive coordinator.

"He gets high marks for recruiting and for organizing the offensive coaches and preparing quarterbacks," Schnellenberger said.

Since 1985, the only jobs Nord has held where Schnellenberger wasn't the head coach was in 1996 when he was the receivers coach at Pittsburgh and from 1997-2003 when he was at UTEP, including four seasons as the Miners' head coach.

Nord, a Louisville native who graduated from Bishop David High School before playing tight end for the Cardinals from 1977-79, will be returning home this week when FAU faces No. 24 Louisville at noon Saturday at Papa John's Stadium.

After graduating from Louisville, Nord was hired as tight ends coach for the school. When Bob Weber was fired after the 1984 season, Nord was the only assistant Schnellenberger kept from Weber's staff that included offensive coordinator Steve Mariucci, who is the Detroit Lions coach.

"You always want to keep one staff member on and I knew he was a good recruiter, hard worker and loyal to his alma mater," Schnellenberger said.

Schnellenberger knew Nord after playing on the same high school team as his father, Gil Nord, on a Flaget High School team that featured Paul Hornung at quarterback.

Gary Nord also had a firm grasp of Schnellenberger's pro-style offense and became the Cardinals' offensive coordinator in 1989. Nord also was Schnellenberger's offensive coordinator for one season at Oklahoma.

Nord held that position at UTEP until being named the Miners' head coach in 2000. From 2000-03 Nord was 14-34 and took UTEP to the Humanitarian Bowl after winning a WAC Championship in 2000.

He was fired after a 2-11 season in 2003, but felt he had the Miners on the right track and recruited 21 of the 22 starters on this year's 3-0 team.

"Some of the kids will call me and see how I'm doing, and that means a lot to me," Nord said. "There are things I miss about being a head coach and if the timing is right, I'd like to do it again. I think I learned from the whole situation."

Nord is happy to be at FAU and to have the opportunity to leave a mark on a program.

"It's no fun to lose, but I'm pretty satisfied where we are," Nord said. "We are inexperienced, but I get to see improvement every day and that makes it very special. I think at places like this you have a chance to make a difference and you enjoy it a lot more. It's much more gratifying."

And the Owls are glad to have an experienced coach who can help them when things aren't going well.

" I love him," said senior quarterback Danny Embick. "He's probably one of the favorite coaches that I've had. He's the type of person I want coaching me. He's not too uptight. He's not in your face. He enjoys other things instead of just football. He's very good on the sideline if things are going wrong and people are freaking out."