Miami Gardens ·
Florida Atlantic University finally got the spotlight from ESPN2 Thursday
night and promptly froze up against Oklahoma State.
The Owls kept fumbling. They couldn't score a touchdown. They couldn't fill
the seats, so many of them empty at Dolphins Stadium that not even the
typical television tricks could hide them.
In other words,
it was a great night for the Owls. Hey, progress isn't always pretty.
It can be painful, incremental and potentially embarrassing. That's the risk
with FAU's fledgling status and ambitious schedule,
which also includes Louisville and Minnesota this season
and is even more ridiculous in 2006.
It's coach Howard Schnellenberger's
way, and it's the right approach for FAU. FAU fans must agree after watching
the Owls play with the Cowboys of the Big 12 Conference before wearing down.
Really, it shouldn't have mattered even if the Cowboys had dominated the
Owls. FAU football right now is Schnellenberger's
vision, and that's about more than this game, this season or even the next. Schnellenberger has a history of seeing potential where
others see nothing but potholes. He deserves the benefit of your doubts if
not your outright endorsement.
Miami Hurricanes fans already know about Schnellenberger's
rejuvenating touch. Well, at least the few UM fans who recognize it's not the
program's birthright to be good.
Schnellenberger saved football and laid the
foundation for what is a top-15 program. No one thought it was possible,
except Schnellenberger, of course.
Schnellenberger won't reach those heights at FAU,
but just guiding a program he started to respectability would be impressive.
Then he can fade into retirement with his reputation, sullied by that sorry
season at Oklahoma,
This task will be tougher for Schnellenberger than
his previous works, and not just because the Owls always will bring up the
rear to Miami, Florida
and Florida State.
fans had no distractions from April until October. Schnellenberger
coached the Hurricanes from 1979-83, when there were less financial pressures
and the local sports scene wasn't saturated.
So Schnellenberger is thinking bigger than he
should again, but how can you not admire that? It's never been his way to
The Owls will get manhandled at times along the way, but that's OK. Try, like
Schnellenberger, to see beyond that and the meager home crowds and embrace the potential rewards in the
People will yawn when the big boys pound FAU. They'll take a look if the Owls
play them close. They'll take the Owls seriously if they somehow win, and
maybe even start showing up.
Even if all that doesn't happen, at FAU's level
confidence doesn't require victories. Playing big-name opponents and learning
from it is enough at this stage.
At the very least, FAU can cash those sweet checks from guarantee games until
learning to swim. Judging by Thursday, when the Owls never quit competing
even if they couldn't stop sputtering, they'll learn fast.
That's the kind of progress that's easy to see now. Leave it to Schnellenberger to see the future.
Michael Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.