South Carolina Media
South Carolina Media
Posted on Tue, Aug. 29, 2006
The man knows how to build
By BOB SPEAR
Howard Schnellenberger might steal the theme from the old television series and deliver a message on his business card: Have Team, Will Travel.
The Florida Atlantic coach will send his fledgling team to Clemson this week, Kansas State the next, then Oklahoma State and South Carolina ? a perfect prescription for a 0-4 start.
?People do think we?re crazy,? he says.
Schnellenberger understands the obvious. Florida Atlantic, coming off a 2-9 season and fielding the sixth football team in its history, will be overwhelming underdogs in those games.
?But the whole process is not about being 2-2 or 1-3 or 0-4,? he says. ?The idea is to use that playing time and experience to help us later. We will be a better football team for playing those games.?
?Better? means not only this year but beyond, and if anybody knows the possibilities, Schnellenberger does.
He used the formula ? ?difficult but opportunistic scheduling,? he says ? in resurrecting moribund programs at Miami and Louisville. He sees the same potential at Florida Atlantic, a school with 26,000 students located in some of the most fertile recruiting territory in the nation.
?We prefer to play teams better than us,? he says. ?At this time in our lives, we can play those teams and the loss won?t kill us. The thing is, we must get a lot out of those games, and if we do, the results will be plain to see.?
Welcome opportunity. After a one-year fling a decade ago at Oklahoma, in his words, ?turned out poorly,? Schnellenberger, 72, figured his coaching days had ended. Indeed, he went into the business of selling municipal bonds.
?I was 60-odd years old, and I needed something to keep me busy,? he says.
He found the new lifestyle boring.
A guy who coached under Bear Bryant, Don Shula and George Allen cannot walk away from the game easily.
Memories of involvement with teams that won national college championships and Super Bowls do not disappear overnight.
Thus, Schnellenberger greeted a 1998 call from Florida Atlantic president Anthony Catanese like a retired firehouse Dalmatian that hears a siren.
?He told me about the plans (to establish a football program) and thought I would be the best person for football operations,? he says.
The job consisted of fundraising and planning for the program, not coaching, and he thrived.
?I never thought I would be the coach, but when the time came, he wanted me,? Schnellenberger says. ?The Founders (financial backers) encouraged me, and (area) high school coaches thought I could recruit better.?
His track record mattered, too. He rescued the Miami program in the late 1970s, guided the Hurricanes to their first national title and established the foundation that remains today. He did the same at Louisville, building a program that hammered Alabama 34-7 in the 1990 Fiesta Bowl.
?(Florida Atlantic) is different,? he says, ?but I?m blessed that I could do what I love for all these years and still have time on the clock.?
Building from scratch. At Miami and Louisville, Schnellenberger took over programs that had a foundation. At Florida Atlantic, he started from square one.
?We had to get to a point where those programs were,? he says. ?We have done that. In three years, we went from not having a team and losing to Slippery Rock in our first game to making the semifinals in the I-AA playoffs.?
A year later, in 2004, the Owls went 9-3 and beat three teams that earned bowl bids..
?We lost those guys and had to restock,? Schnellenberger says, noting the 2-9 record that included games against Kansas, Minnesota, Louisville and Oklahoma State.
Moving from Division I-AA (63 scholarships) to I-A (85) meant facing teams that had been at 85.
?They had been through the redshirt process, and we were short in numbers and experience against those teams,? he says. ?That?s one difference between this and the Miami and Louisville situations; at those places, we didn?t have to wait.?
One hundred sixty-four players turned out for Florida Atlantic?s first practice in 2000. The Owls had signed 25 to grants-in-aid.
?We started with those 25,? Schnellenberger says. ?We played no games, redshirting them all, then we added another 25 in 2001.
His plan to play superior teams, he says, came from a childhood experience.
?I was about 10 years old, and I had a cousin (who was) 14 or 15 playing in sandlot pickup games,? he says. ?They let me play, and that helped me get strong, tougher and more experienced.?
He looks to the future and believes the formula will work a third time.
Philosophy works. Like anyone, Schnellenberger could look back and wonder ?what if? about some career decisions. For example, on the heels of his guiding Miami to a national title, he jumped at a lucrative opportunity to coach in the ill-fated United States Football League.
?I made a bad decision, but given the circumstances, I probably would make the same decision,? he says. ?You can?t have regrets, and I think there was some fate involved.?
Indeed, he landed in Louisville, his home town.
?I was part of some magnificent things there,? he says. ?Look at what it has done for football in the state of Kentucky. Jerry Caliborne (the University of Kentucky coach at the time) and I convinced the high school organization that spring practice was important, Kentucky and Louisville renewed that rivalry, and I get a great sense of pride out of the building of the (Louisville) stadium.?
He has moved here and there, but the game is really the same. Football still boils down to blocking and tackling.
?What has changed is the NCAA and the rules,? he says. ?They have instituted rules and regulations that make it harder for the have-nots.
?You can?t do this, you can?t do that and it?s harder to get to know the players you?re recruiting. They do it in the name of controlling unscrupulous activities, but we still have as much (bad things) as ever.?
Still, Schnellenberger looks ahead through realistic eyes. He understands the mountain his team must climb to start the season, yet he remains undeterred. He knows from experience that in the long run, his Have-Team-Will-Travel philosophy works.
South Carolina Media
Posted on Tue, Aug. 29, 2006
Clemson on verge of winning an ACC title
By RON MORRIS
Eight years in the making and Tommy Bowden finally has his program where he wants it: In position to challenge for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship year-in and year-out.
That really is all anyone can ask of a head football coach. Now it is a matter of getting a break here or there, a ball to bounce Clemson?s way and the Tigers could soon be wearing an ACC crown for the first time since 1991.
Even Bowden admits he likes where his program is headed.
?When you look at this program in the past 25 to 30 years, a number of things are happening all at the same time,? says Bowden, who then rattles off such items as the West Zone expansion project, recruiting being at a peak over the past couple of decades and six bowl appearances in seven years.
?I think that combination of things has made it probably where the moon and the stars all lined up like it hasn?t been in the past 15 years,? Bowden says.
So what does all that mean for the 2006 season? For starters, it means that Clemson should no longer lose games to the likes of Duke, as it did in 2004, and Wake Forest, as it did two of the past three seasons.
It also means that Clemson can no longer afford the kind of slow starts that have characterized the program the past two seasons. The Tigers went 1-4 to begin 2004 and 2-3 to start the season a year ago.
Finally, it means that Clemson has positioned itself to be considered among the ACC elite with every reason to believe the Tigers are on par with Miami, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Clemson has veteran players everywhere and considerable depth.
Now all Clemson has to do is prove it on the field.
The schedule is not particularly kind to Clemson this season. Every team wants to play its most challenging opponents at home. The Tigers have just the opposite with road trips to Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech.
It is unrealistic to believe Clemson will win all three of those games. The Tigers might be good, but they are not that good. Winning two of those three would be a major accomplishment. Realistically, Clemson will win one of those … most likely at Boston College.
While those are the season?s most pivotal games, none may be more important than the opener against Florida Atlantic. Here?s why: Quarterback is the one position where Clemson cannot afford an injury. So it is paramount that first-year starter Will Proctor get Clemson out to a big lead on Saturday and turn most of the second half over to backup Cullen Harper, a redshirt sophomore who has five plays of experience in one game against Duke.
Assuming Proctor remains healthy the entire season, Clemson will be favored in all games except the aforementioned three at Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech.
Talk all you want about the offense, with one of the nation?s most electrifying running backs in James Davis, a solid, experienced line and a stable of quality receivers. But the real reason Clemson will be favored in nine regular-season games is its defense, which is anchored by end Gaines Adams.
Of those nine games, Clemson should have little trouble with Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech and Temple. The Tigers should also defeat North Carolina, Wake Forest and Maryland. That brings Clemson?s win total to seven, counting one against the difficult road trio, and other games against Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina. The Tigers will win two of those three with the likely loss coming against Georgia Tech.
That leaves Clemson with a 9-3 record, and a victory to follow over Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, which can select a Big 12 Conference representative for the first time. Although it will not win the ACC championship, Clemson will post its first 10-win season since 1990. More importantly, the Tigers will be in position to challenge for the ACC championship again in 2007.
South Carolina Media
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South Carolina Media
South Carolina Media
If you want it done right …
ERIC BOYNTON, Staff Writer
Published August 29, 2006
Howard Schnellenberger's head coaching record: 1973-74 Baltimore Colts 4-13 1979-83 U. of Miami 41-16 1985-94 Louisville 54-56-2 1995 Oklahoma 5-5-1 2001-05 Fla. Atlantic 28-30
After accepting the job as director of football operations for Florida Atlantic University, Howard Schnellenberger's initial and most important task was finding a head coach for the start-up program.
A prolonged study of the resumes he received resulted in one conclusion – who was better qualified than himself to commandeer the sidelines for a team starting from scratch?
So the well-known coach resumed that career, returning to the Owls at age 67 for their debut 2001 season. Saturday, Schnellenberger will bring his impressive resume and fledgling program to Clemson for the season opener.
"The incentive to do it was how very few coaches ever have the opportunity to give birth to a new team," he said of deciding to return to coaching.
"And how much impact that has, not only on the university, the faculty, staff and students, not only for this generation, but for generations to come, was very appealing to me. To be the guy who could make it happen."
And his credentials certainly boast of a guy who can get it done. Schnellenberger revived a nearly dead program at Miami, eventually leading the Hurricanes to their first national championship in 1983.
He built "basketball school" Louisville into a football program to be reckoned with in a 10-year stint highlighted by a 10-1-1 mark in 1990, including a win over Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl.
He was an NFL assistant under Don Shula with the Dolphins (including the 17-0 team in 1972) and George Allen with the Rams and was head coach of the Baltimore Colts for two seasons.
"Obviously his pedigree speaks for itself," said Steve Walsh, the former Miami quarterback and current radio analyst for Florida Atlantic.
"A lot of what he accomplished was before the (current) players time, that was ancient history to players in the 2000-era. But what he brings is a wealth of knowledge about the game the ability to motivate players and bring them to places they haven't been as far as their ability."
Despite his tremendous success in resurrecting lowly programs, starting a program from scratch promised to be a huge headache for a guy used to tremendous success.
"It's been a great joy for me to see this program develop," Schnellenberger said. "To see it move forward in maturity and I look forward to being here when we become mature enough to play with the good teams that are on our schedule right now.
"Certainly the win at Miami for the national championship and the Fiesta Bowl win at Louisville were big events in (my life), but (FAU) is kind of special being that it was something created. It's more like a father looking at the accomplishments of his son."
That "son" is still bearing scars of immaturity despite a surprising growth spurt when the Owls went 11-3 in 2003, reaching the quarterfinals of the Division I-AA playoffs, and 9-3 the following season.
Last year, the Owls came back to earth with a 2-9 season that included losses to Minnesota, Oklahoma State and Kansas. But even as Schnellenberger's boys take some lumps against upgraded competition, there's little doubt of the impact he's made while guiding a program off the ground.
"People in South Florida know what he means to football around here," Walsh said. "And on the road, people want to know about him because he's a living legend in college football."
Eric Boynton can be reached at 562-7272 or [email protected]