He plans to spend the first half watching from the UM side of the stadium and the second half on the north side among Owls fans.
I asked if he thinks Friday night will be emotional for him.
That can be a complicated question for some people. Howard, from the foghorn voice to the bears build, conveys a gruff persona. He is of a different generation. He learned under cold-eyed, taciturn giants such as Bear Bryant and Don Shula. He is a mans man of the John Wayne type.
I get emotional as hell inside but I dont show anything to anybody, he said. Because thats what a head coach does.
I asked if he ever cries during a movie.
Yeah I dont do that, he said. To a leader of men, emotion has to be used, distributed wisely. Its like a poker face. Youve got to control your emotions.
This has been a big (and dare say emotional?) couple of weeks for Schnellenberger.
Last Tuesday he was with the 1972 Perfect Season Dolphins on their White House visit, as that teams former offensive coordinator under Shula.
That was like the pony on Christmas that you didnt expect, he said of the honor 41 years after the fact. The whole thing was edifying.
(Howard says things like that. Like harbinger, and edifying. Sometimes you wonder at what point the college professor took a wrong turn and wound up in the athletic department. It is no wonder he is a popular hire for speaking engagements, including one to the FBI Academy just last month in Orlando. Something about Howard is grandiose.)
Schnellenberger volunteers he wasnt a Barack Obama voter but adds, I went because I was invited by the commander in chief, and it was a great privilege to answer his welcome. You absorb the greatness of the event.
Yet that 72 Dolphins visit would not be as special to Schnellenberger as this UM-FAU week is. That wasnt his team. These are.
You feel different when you become the supreme commander, he said. When youre second in command, its his ballgame. You take great joy in it, but that was Shulas team. That was my training ground for things to come.
So it was those things to come that Schnellenberger mentions when you ask what he is proudest of in a coaching career that spanned 53 seasons. He mentions three stops bookended by UM and FAU.
From a success standpoint, the thing down in Miami has to ring as the crowning project, he said. But from a human standpoint it was going back to my hometown of Louisville and bringing that program to the point we did [from 1985-94].
That was twice as hard as Miami, because at Miami we just had to get that program out of a recession. Then it was something different entirely with FAU, to create something out of nothing. Up here [in Boca], we had to go through foreplay, inception, birth, baptism, confirmation, Bat Mitzvah, childhood everything.
Schnellenberger reflects upon two career mistakes he made, two terrible decisions, he said Monday.
The first was leaving UM after the 83 season to take over a Miami-based USFL team that never happened. Had he not, whos to say Schnellenberger would not have been the Canes coach for all five of their national titles or more?
If he stayed, whats he going to win here, seven, 10 national titles? Canes offensive line coach Art Kehoe wondered Monday. Kehoe played and got his coaching start under Schnellenberger.
My junior we were going to drop football and he goes from that to a national championship, Kehoe said. Hes the main fabric of everything here.
Schnellenberger said his second mistake was leaving Louisville after the 94 season for one ill-fated, miserable year at Oklahoma after which he resigned under pressure.
Lifting himself up a few years later to shepherd the birth of FAU football was an antidote to what happened to me out at Oklahoma, he said. It cured me.
Now Schnellenbergers epic, ebbing career comes full circle with UM vs. FAU. He and wife Beverlee had three children, losing one to complications of cancer in 2008. They have three grandchildren, but two other of his cherished offspring will be playing on Friday night.
I asked if the decades since that 83 championship have seemed to fly by. No, it seems like 30 years, he said. Weve had a full life.
That lifes full impact on football in South Florida has been not less than profound, when you consider a time line and imprint stretching from the Dolphins Perfect Season to the maiden UM championship to that very first FAU football poster touting a team then alive only in one mans imagination.
Remember the rainbow on top of that original poster?
This week, Howard Schnellenberger finds the end of it, at last.