In the seven years he's been the coach at Florida Atlantic University, Howard Schnellenberger has quietly longed to go back to the place of his greatest triumph -- the Orange Bowl.
Sadly, the man who laid the foundation for what has become the most dominant college football program in the past 25 years has had to wait patiently like one of the last guys standing in a Bachelorette episode. One by one, poor Howie has had to watch as South Florida, Central Florida and even FIU -- the younger, uglier dude -- have been called up by the Canes to receive a rose.
"I look at it as a personal compliment," the 73-year old said when asked Sunday at the FSWA Media Days in Tampa if UM's failure to schedule the Owls has irked him.
It appears now -- maybe -- old Howie is going to get his chance. Schnellenberger might have let out a little secret Sunday when he told a small group of reporters that his dream might soon become a reality.
Howie said The U is now apparently interested in the Owls and a date between UM and FAU could happen in the not-so-distant future.
"We hadn't talked to UM before, but we've been questioned recently about a game,'' he said. "It's an ongoing conversation now. And it could happen in the not-so-distant future."
My bet, if true, is 2009. Even though a UM official recently told one of our writers the Hurricanes' schedule was booked through 2013, my search through UM's new media guide Sunday showed the Canes have only 11 games scheduled in '09 (eight conference games and a three-game non-conference schedule which features Oklahoma, South Florida and Central Florida). There's a chance Miami hasn't announced just yet who that 12th opponent is. But if they've already done so for 2010, 2011 and 2012, why wouldn't they do the same for '09? Susan Miller Degnan and I tried reaching UM athletic director Paul Dee and FAU's athletic director Sunday night to see if there was more to the story, but couldn't reach them.
Even if someone on either end denies this story tomorrow in attempt to keep negotiations under wraps, the more I think about it, the more I think the Canes owe Schnellenberger a game and a date at the OB.
Last week, Schnellenberger didn't make the top four of The Herald's South Florida Sports' Fantastic Four competition. He finished ninth, but was the leading vote-getter among people once associated with the The U.
There's no doubt he deserve recognition. He started the Canes' football dynasty when the program was struggling to stay afloat in the late 1970s. People forget how bad Miami really was then. Some thought the program might have even better off folding. Then, he started winning, bringing a new mentality to the program. After winning the first national championship in UM history in 1983, he bolted for the USFL and a job that never materialized when the South Florida team he was going to coach folded. Schnellenberger returned home to Louisville, Miami brought in Jimmy Johnson, and the rest as they say was history.
But what if Howie had never made that mistake and gone to the USFL? Would UM not have had a situation very similar to that of Florida State with Bobby Bowden? Would Schnellenberger have won five national titles and become a god? There's no question UM's history could have gone in a totally different direction. Who knows. Either way, the Canes need to do something for the old ball coach. And one Saturday afternoon isn't going to kill them.
CHECK IT OUT: Aside from the poll here I'd like for you guys to vote on, drop on by to Canespace.com to checkout a nice Q&A a diehard Canes fan has put together with former Canes linebacker Rohan Marley. It's a three-part series with some really interesting stories.