BOCA RATON, Fla. - Howard Schnellenberger built his legendary coaching career and was the driving force that helped Florida Atlantic University build a football stadium. Now, the field on which the Owls play their home games will bear the name of one of college football's most accomplished program-builders.
The field at FAU Stadium on the University's Boca Raton campus will be named Howard Schnellenberger Field, honoring the man who coached the Owls during their first 11 seasons and retired after the 2011 campaign with 158 victories during 27 years as a head coach at four Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.
FAU's Board of Trustees approved the new field name during a conference call on Wednesday, Aug. 20.
"I am humbled beyond belief that the University would bestow this great honor on the Schnellenberger family, and me personally," said Schnellenberger. "This is probably the highlight of my coaching career. Thanks to the FAU Board of Trustees, the University, the fans, the players and the coaches that were an integral part of this." A ceremony to honor Schnellenberger will be held prior to the Owls' first home game of the season at FAU Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 13. FAU President John Kelly also will make a special presentation at halftime. FAU hosts Tulsa, with the kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. It will be the fourth season for the Owls in the 29,419-seat on-campus stadium.
"Coach Schnellenberger is a legend - a true visionary who always will be synonymous with FAU football," said FAU President John Kelly. "The University, the community, and fans of college football everywhere look to Coach as the consummate leader, and are thankful for all he has done for the sport. I know FAU will always remember this as we cheer our team on the beautiful field that will forever bear his name."
Schnellenberger welcomed the idea of bringing football to FAU in 1998. During his tenure as FAU's coach, the Owls garnered two bowl victories and one Sun Belt Conference championship. Twenty of his FAU players have signed professional contracts, with five drafted by the National Football League.
An assistant coach on the Miami Dolphins' 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship team, Schnellenberger made his greatest mark in the collegiate ranks. His career has been highly chronicled throughout the years, from winning the first national championship as coach at the University of Miami in 1983 to ushering the University of Louisville program from near obscurity to a top 20 national ranking. Schnellenberger went 6-0 as a head coach in bowl games, the most bowl victories for a coach with a perfect record.
After reaching the goal of bringing football to FAU - the Owls played its inaugural season in 1999 - Schnellenberger embarked on the challenge of getting a stadium built in order to move the program to the next level. FAU Stadium opened on Oct. 15, 2011, with the Owls hosting Western Kentucky. The open-air stadium features 6,000 premium seats, including 24 suites, 26 loge boxes, 1,000 premier club seats and 4,000 priority club seats.
"We are thankful we have the opportunity to honor Coach Schnellenberger with the naming of our football field," said Pat Chun, FAU's vice president and director of athletics. "As our first football coach, he forever changed Florida Atlantic University. To permanently honor Coach Schnellenberger will serve as a great reminder to all who enter our stadium of his vision, impact and legacy."
Schnellenberger played for Paul "Bear" Bryant at the University of Kentucky and served as an assistant to Bryant at the University of Alabama. He was an assistant to NFL Hall of Fame coaches George Allen (Los Angeles Rams) and Don Shula (Dolphins), and served as head coach of the Baltimore Colts during the 1973 season and of three games in 1974.
Schnellenberger was hired as FAU's director of football operations on May 1, 1998. He coached FAU's inaugural game on Sept. 1, 2001, against Slippery Rock at Pro Player Stadium in Miami. Under Schnellenberger's leadership, the Owls won the New Orleans Bowl in 2007, marking the quickest a program had advanced to a bowl game after moving to Division I-A, which was later renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision. FAU also won the Motor City Bowl the following season.