Coach had great times at the OB


Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger is a positive person, but bring up the soon-to-be demolished Orange Bowl, and a sudden sadness comes over him.

"It's a tragedy that the grand, old lady will be gone. It's a shame me and other football coaches couldn't do enough to save her," said Schnellenberger, who was an assistant coach when the Dolphins played in the Orange Bowl and was head coach of the Hurricanes when they won the 1983 national title there.

"Nobody took ownership in it, and that allowed it to become decrepit," Schnellenberger said.


Schnellenberger, 73, will make his final appearance in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, when FAU (5-5, 4-1 Sun Belt) plays Florida International (0-10, 0-5) in the sixth annual Shula Bowl.

Schnellenberger's memories of the Orange Bowl predate its current name and reach back to 1952, when he was a player on the Kentucky team coached by Paul "Bear" Bryant.

It was Burdine Stadium then, and Schnellenberger said the team stayed at the Shelborne Hotel on South Beach.

"There was no air conditioning back then, but there were sliding glass doors looking out on the ocean, and louvered doors into the hallway, so the cool ocean breeze came through. I remember lying there and telling my roommate, 'This is were I want to live.'"

The Wildcats beat the Hurricanes 29-0, and Schnellenberger went on to become an All-American at Kentucky. He later joined Bryant as an assistant at Alabama and returned to the Orange Bowl three times between 1961 and 1965, winning two national championships.

Schnellenberger moved to Miami after being hired as an assistant by Don Shula in 1970.

Schnellenberger served two stints with the Dolphins, interrupted by a short tenure as coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1973-74.

It was then he learned first-hand about the home-field advantage the Orange Bowl could provide.

"I brought the team down here in December, and it was hot as hell. They wore us out, beat us 44-0," Schnellenberger said. "When the offense would come off the field, and the defense grudgingly go out, sweating and dying, and I would look back at my offense, I couldn't find them because they had towels that had been soaked in ice water covering their heads."

Schnellenberger was hired as coach of the Hurricanes in 1979, and that is where he had his most memorable moments, the best coming Jan. 2, 1984 when Miami upset Nebraska to win the school's first of five national titles.

"That was the thing that jump-started everything at Miami," Schnellenberger said. "We started winning, and fans became fanatics and the Orange Bowl became a very special place."

The Hurricanes went 25-3 in the Orange Bowl during Schnellenberger's five seasons at Miami. "The guts of it might not have be pretty, but it's a gorgeous stadium when you are down on the field," Schnellenberger said.

Schnellenberger said he won't be thinking about the stadium's impending demise when he is on the field for the final time during Saturday's game, which FAU needs to win to keep alive its hopes of winning the conference title and trip to the program's first bowl game.

"At games end there is plenty of time to think about the venue and give it the proper sendoff. It is my inclination to drop down to both knees and pay homage and to say goodbye to the grand, old lady," Schnellenberger said.