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Howard Schnellenberger, famed NFL and college coach, dead at 87

He led the University of Miami to its first national title. "Without him, there is no Miami Football," the school said.
Image: Howard Schnellenberger
Howard Schnellenberger holds the game balls before the start of the Boca Raton Bowl NCAA college football game between Marshall and Northern Illinois at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., on Dec. 23, 2014.Joel Auerbach / AP file

Famed football coach Howard Schnellenberger, who led the University of Miami Hurricanes to its first national championship in 1983, died Saturday, his family announced. He was 87.

A cause of death was not revealed.

His Miami years were arguably the height of Schnellenberger's career. He led the team to its first bowl game in 13 years in 1980 before besting Nebraska three years later for the title.

When he arrived at the Coral Gables campus in 1979, there was talk of disbanding the poor-performing football program.

"Without him, there is no Miami Football," the Hurricanes tweeted Saturday.

He also made a mark in the NFL, most notably as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and the team's 17-0, Super Bowl-winning season in 1972. The next season he was fired as an assistant for the Baltimore Colts.

Schnellenberger started his football life in earnest as an All-American tight end at Kentucky in the 1950s. In 2005, the university inducted him into its Athletics Hall of Fame.

He became offensive coordinator at Alabama and moved on to the coaching staff of the Los Angeles Rams before ending up working under head coach Don Shula at the Miami Dolphins.

In 2001, Schnellenberger led the Florida Atlantic University Owls in their inaugural season and went on to spend 11 seasons at the Boca Raton school.

One of his three sons, Stephen, passed away in 2008 at the age of 48, the family said.

He and his wife were married for 61 years, according to the family's statement. He referred to her as his assistant head coach.

"Howard always treated me special, like a queen, and was truly a husband that every Canadian girl dreams of," Beverlee Schnellenberger said in the statement.

A private memorial mass was planned, the family said.

In addition to his wife, survivors include sons Timothy and Stuart; grandsons Joey and Marcus; granddaughter Teather; and great-grandchildren Tyler, Lacie, Harper Ann and Angel.