NEW ORLEANS - Howard Schnellenberger, 73, will be on the sideline tonight when his Florida Atlantic Owls (7-5) play their first bowl game, against Memphis (7-5) in the New Orleans Bowl.
"It's nice to be with a football team that's growing, winning games and qualifying" for the postseason, Schnellenberger said at practice this week. "I guess I'm a happy camper that we've done the right things to get us here. I'll be a doubly happy camper if we can win this game."
Schnellenberger won championships as an assistant under Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama in the 1960s and with the Miami Dolphins in the early 1970s. He resurrected college programs at Miami, where he won a national title in 1983, and at Louisville.
It had appeared that Schnellenberger's one season at Oklahoma, when the Sooners went 5-5-1 in 1995, might be his last as a Division I coach.
But in 1998, Florida Atlantic, a state university in Boca Raton, asked him to build a new program. He was given two years to recruit, with his team playing its first NCAA game in 2001. By 2003, FAU was in the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs.
FAU was 2-9 in its first season in the top division, followed by a 5-7 mark a season ago. This year, the Owls won the Sun Belt Conference title.
Rusty Smith has led the way, passing for 3,352 yards and 27 touchdowns.