Schnellenberger sorry he left UofL, doubles down on prophesy

Howard Schnellenberger wants to see his prophesy fulbilled.
Howard Schnellenberger eager to see his prophesy fulfilled.

By Steve Springer

Every die-hard Card fan knows the infamous phrase that Coach Howard Schnellenberger termed during his introductory press conference when he was hired over 30 years ago. But in the event that this season’s unprecedented success and exposure has you donning the red tinted glasses, drinking the Kool-Aid and is consuming you and your bleeding Cardinal heart so much that you can’t think straight, here ya go:

“We’re on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time…”
              Howard Schnellenberger

A few months after this glorious prognostication, said coach made another impression on the writer of this article by trading hats with the then 10-year-old at his weekly radio show at W.W. Cousins on Breckenridge Lane. He left as much of a mark on that young fan as he did the University of Louisville’s football relevance and trajectory, so said fan grew up and felt that it was imperative to catch up with the legendary leader in south Florida and ask a few questions about this year’s magical ride.

The author, then 10 years old, gets an autograph from Schnellenberger in 1985.
The author, then 10 years old, gets an autograph from Schnellenberger in 1985.

When asked Monday about how he feels knowing that UofL is on the cusp of realizing the ultimate, Coach told me, “I’m delighted that they have exploded on the scene the way they have and to have the team prepared for the introduction of Action Jackson.” (Yes, Coach has jumped on the sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson hype train and is officially calling him Action Jackson). He even went as far as to call him the “Commander in Chief for the next two years” and a championship is “inevitable.”

After coining the infamous “collision course” comment, did he really feel like that was possible for a team that almost dropped football and was playing in a minor league baseball stadium in front of freebie-ticket fans? Or was he just appealing to the fan base to generate some excitement and interest in the program?

“I was appealing to my God Almighty, the students, the faculty, the staff, the basketball fans, and to the whole world that Louisville had the capability.

“I was appealing to my God Almighty, the students, the faculty, the staff, the basketball fans, and to the whole world that Louisville had the capability, and when we got the stadium it had the opportunity to become reality; it was the fulfillment of what the University of Louisville was destined to be.”

Why he came to the University of Louisville

When the USFL deal didn’t materialize, what peaked his interest or curiosity about the University of Louisville? Was it just wanting to come home, or was there more?

“It was a combination of a whole bunch of things. The fact that it was my hometown, I played and coached football in Kentucky, played football and basketball for Flaget High School, used to play St. X, Trinity, Manual” and went on to mention his “pipeline to the pro’s from south Florida and saw that that could be important to the scene.”

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Louisville wins playing Notre Dame, but has higher aspirations

Notre Dame week is here.

A game against America’s most revered college football program, one that University of Louisville fans could only wish for until joining the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. Being the new member of the conference may have even been a factor, making scheduling the game easier for Notre Dame.

Simply playing on the same field as Notre Dame elevates the stature and credibility of the UofL program in the eyes of football analysts and fanatics. The game forces even the most hardened skeptics to respect Louisville football, acknowledging that the Cardinals have a legitimate chance of winning at South Bend.

Credibility in college football, where tradition and myths routinely shape perception, reality doesn’t come easily. As UofL fans have learned, the more traditional programs have huge advantages when it comes to weekly rankings, bowl selections and now national championship playoffs considerations.  Win or lose, Notre Dame will always be considered the superior program because of the ingrained beliefs of the opinion leaders, the people — the writers, the columnists, the broadcast networks, the coaches and college presidents — who shape the national perceptions of college football elite.

The 14-story Word of Life, also known as Touchdown Jesus, overlooking the south  end zone at South Bend.
The 14-story Word of Life mosaic, also known as Touchdown Jesus, overlooking the south end zone at South Bend.

A win for UofL at South Bend would be a shocker for millions of Irish fans across the country, possibly setting off still another ND coaching search after three consecutive losses. Sportscaster Howard Cosell once proclaimed that football is a religion for Notre Dame fans, only partially in reference to the 14-story mosaic of Jesus on the school library adjacent to the stadium.

For Louisville fans, however, it would be still another affirmation that Louisville can be among the nation’s elite football programs, reaffirming Howard Schnellenberger’s vow that “Louisville is on a collision course with the national championship” is another step closer to reality.

Afterall, Notre Dame is:

— The most successful program in college football history. In 100 seasons, the Irish have 670 victories, second only to Michigan (692), which has played nine more seasons.

— The winner of seven Associated Press national championships, two more than second-place Oklahoma and Alabama.

— The home of seven Heisman Trophy winners , more than any other school.

— A program that has had 10 undefeated and 25 one-loss seasons.

— The program has ranked in The AP Top Twenty 484 times since the poll’s inception in 1936, or 74.3 percent of AP polls, the most of any school. They have been ranked No. 1 seventy-five times, four more than runner-up Oklahoma.

Those are some almost awe-inspiring credentials, worthy of a program synonymous with college football in America. But this unique encounter finally provides UofL with a chance to add a rich bit of history to its own growing tradition after years of denied opportunities.

The stars have aligned, the opponents and the game have converged, and the impossible has become plausible.

Schnellenberger says Louisville’s Fiesta Bowl win energized the city

Schnelly

Howard Schnellenberger had many reasons to be in Louisville over Labor Day weekend, catching up with friends and family in his home town while taking in the Louisville vs. Miami football game, featuring two of his former teams.

Schnellenberger was also promoting his new book, “Passing The Torch,” at numerous stops throughout the community over the weekend. His booth outside Gate One at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was among the most popular, with a continuous line leading up to kickoff. He also participated in the Punt, Pass & Kick competition.

In his book he writes about the impact of his biggest win, a 34-7 victory over Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl in 1990:

“We felt like Rocky Balboa, or better yet, hometown hero Muhammad Ali. To quote him, we were ready to rock the world. As we were headed out of the locker room for the opening kickoff, Alabama players lined both sides of the hallway leading to the field. They were smirking and talking trash. Maybe they thought they were going to intimidate us. They had no idea how hungry we were … Continue reading “Schnellenberger says Louisville’s Fiesta Bowl win energized the city”

Doubleheader gut check in football and basketball

Two major conflicts, one right on top of the other, five or six hours of emotional highs and lows for University of Louisville fans Saturday. The pressured-packed, non-stop intensity certain to severely test the cardio, cerebral and central nervous systems of many a Cardinal fan.

The first in basketball against the University of Kentucky. The second, in football, a bowl game against the University of Miami, forcing fans to quickly adapt between sports and changing venues with little time to absorb or savor the results from the first encounter to the second.

UK fans are seemingly omnipresent, impossible to avoid, and are never going to go away.

Obviously, UK is not just another basketball foe. The school’s administrators, coaches and fans proclaim the program to be the premier basketball program in the nation, backing up the claim with eight national championships. A program with a coach who is able to recruit first-round NBA draft picks on an annual basis and arrogantly boasts that “UK is college basketball.” A program that wouldn’t even schedule UofL for 40 years and finally did so only under considerable pressure from the State Legislature.

The rivalry extends from the basketball court to all other sports and even into the daily lives of Louisvillians who live and work alongside UK fans. They are as strong in their allegiance to the Wildcats as UofL die-hards are in their collective loyalty to the Cardinals. Never mind that Wildcat fans account for only 36% of the local population, they are seemingly omnipresent, impossible to avoid, and are never going to go away.

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Louisville football tickets arriving

ducats

The University of Louisville football tickets are on the mail trucks.

Well, actually, the observer’s have already arrived. Tickets for seven football games, seven Green Lot parking tickets spread out on the desk. An inexplicable sense of accomplishment for an individual who started out listening to UofL games on the radio at the orphanage.

Fall football practice is well under way, Media Day is over, the Kickoff Luncheon has sold out again. Only Fan Day and an intersquad scrimmage to go between us and the opening of the 2013 football season. The only distraction being the announcement of the 2013-14 basketball schedule, which always seems to be announced two days before the opening kickoff for some reason.

Louisville football has come a long way over several decades. The days of getting coupons for free tickets at the local Convenient store are long gone, as is having one’s choice of seats, the ability to move around the stadium during games. All those people raking leaves, hunting deer, wasting their Saturday afternoons, not knowing what they had at Fairgrounds Stadium.

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