Howard Schnellenberger will be snubbed by the Hall of Fame again on Thursday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I have covered 33 NCAA Final Fours, 11 World Series and more snubs of Howard Schnellenberger by the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame than I'd care to count.
Some stories should not be buried. Some should be told every year. Schnellenberger's ongoing omission from the Hall of Fame is absolutely one of them.
Six coaches were nominated for the Hall of Fame last March. Two will be announced in the 2014 Class Thursday. Neither inductee will have a resume as powerful as Schnellenberger's.
They'll have a better winning percentage because Schnellenberger's failure to win 60 percent of his games remains the unyielding roadblock that will keep him from the Hall until common sense eventually intervenes.
But none of the six has a tapestry like the one Schnellenberger crafted at Miami, Louisville, Oklahoma and Florida Atlantic.
You know the resume. It does not require polishing by me. But I've added another Hall of Fame voice, former Sports Illustrated writer John Underwood, Bear Bryant's biographer, to testify to Schnellenberger's greatness.
"The thing about him that separates him from all others, and I covered a lot of college and pro football for Sports Illustrated, is that he did what is arguably the best coaching job I have ever seen," Underwood said. "That's when he took Miami in 1979 from the precipice of going out of business. They were talking about giving up the program. Four years later he's national champion, beating a great Nebraska team coached by Tom Osborne in the Orange Bowl. It was remarkable in every way."
That's a great place to begin. Miami started becoming Miami when Schnellenberger won the first of the Hurricanes' five national titles in 1983. His final Miami team won the championship by defeating a Nebraska team that Sports Illustrated said belonged in the discussion as the greatest college football team ever.
Then Schnellenberger brought his pipe, championship ring and bluster to Louisville when no other coach with his credentials would have considered coming to Louisville. The facilities were awful. The tradition was uneven. The attendance was marginal.
He won a Fiesta Bowl (against Alabama) and a Liberty Bowl (against Michigan State). He put Tennessee, Texas, Ohio State, Arizona State and Texas A&M on the schedule. He started a rivalry with Kentucky, his alma mater.
The new stadium, the ambition to compete nationally and the road from independent to Conference USA to Big East to ACC began with Schnellenberger's boisterous arrival here in 1985. He mattered as much as a football coach can matter.
Schnellenberger made mistakes, especially managing his career. If he had stayed at Miami, he would have won a fistful of national titles and made the Hall of Fame a decade ago. He also erred by bolting Louisville for Oklahoma after the 1994 season. The Sooners fired him after one season.
But he rallied with a farewell lap at Florida Atlantic, where he created a program from nothing, inspiring the school to build a stadium and push its way into CUSA.
His place in the Hall of Fame should not require debate. But the National Football Foundation demands a 60 percent winning percentage – and Schnellenberger's losing seasons at Louisville and FAU dragged his number to 51, even though he was unbeaten in six bowl games.
Sorry. Schnellenberger's name cannot be placed on the ballot so members could override such arbitrary silliness.
Instead, on Thursday, two of these six coaches will get the Hall of Fame phone call – Mike Bellotti (Oregon), Jim Carlen (West Virginia), Pete Cawthon (Texas Tech), Danny Ford (Clemson, Arkansas), Billy Jack Murphy (Memphis) and Darryl Rogers (Michigan State, Arizona State).
Only one – Ford – can match Schnellenberger's national title. None can match another story that John Underwood tells about Schnellenberger.
As Underwood remembers it, he and Bryant had played golf and then shared dinner at a country club in Tuscaloosa. As they drove to Bryant's house, the coach decided to take his car across campus.
Bryant noticed a solitary light burning in the football offices. Bryant did not have to stop the car to identify who was still on the job.
"It's that damn Schnellenberger, making me look like a genius," Bryant told Underwood.
It would be a great story to tell at Howard Schnellenberger's induction to the College Hall of Fame – if the Hall knew how to identify a genuine Hall of Famer.