Joining Schnellenberger in the class were Paul Hornung, Will Wolford, Bobby Nichols, Bubba Paris, Mary T. Meagher Plant, Marty O’Toole, Mike Silliman, Bunny Daugherty, Father Tom Gentile, Karl Schmitt Sr., Gus Bell and Paulie Miller.
The induction ceremony was on Nov. 15, at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
Schnellenberger is a graduate of Flaget High School and was an All-American end at the University of Kentucky for Paul “Bear” Bryant. He won a National Championship as a coach at the University of Miami in Florida and led the University of Louisville to the 1990 Fiesta Bowl. Schnellenberger’s final stop as a coach was at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla.
KENT TAYLOR: What does this honor mean to you?
HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER: The first thing about it is that it’s wonderful that after over 200 years they decided to honor the athletes that have come up between the grammar schools and the high schools. To be in the inaugural class is quite a thrill for me and for all of us that were inducted.
TAYLOR: How important was that base that you got at Flaget to what you were able to accomplish as a player and as a coach?
SCHNELLENBERGER: Flaget High School back in 1948, when I went there, embodied all the things that America is all about. They were a small Catholic school in the west end where working class people were.
The Xaverian brothers pulled together a great group of people including the Flageteers, the support group of the athletic department and a great group of coaches headed by Paulie Miller. He had a vision that he was going to bring that young school to the heights of glory, to the state championship. He got all of us to believe that if we did what he said, for as long as he said to do it, that we could accomplish seemingly the impossible. That combination of things welded together a group of people that went on to move into the annals and the hierarchy of this community.
I think Paulie and my time at Flaget was the beginning of the seeds of reaching for the highest goal. It has served me in great stead over my career, having men that believed that they could turn something around and make it much better than it was when they got there and the terrific impact that it made at the University of Miami, the University of Louisville, and then Florida Atlantic University.
TAYLOR: Can Kentucky win in the SEC?
SCHNELLENBERGER: You have enough time for me to explain the formula for them to once and for all decide what they want out of their football program?
I truly don’t believe that there has been a full-fledged, in depth study of what their problems are and what their terrific assets are. They have as many assets as Alabama, Auburn, any of the great Southeastern Conference powers, along with Notre Dame, University of Miami.
They need to bring somebody in that is going to bring a great deal of charisma and belief in himself and the university. It’s going to take a group of people coming together in support of that plan and to give football the same funding and the same support both mentally, physically and spiritually that the football team can rise up to the level of the wonderful basketball Cats and take an equal setting and bring great prestige to that university and to this state.
TAYLOR: Do you have anybody in mind who would be good for that job?
SCHNELLENBERGER: I’m not in the business of trying to hire coaches.
TAYLOR: How close did you ever come to becoming the head coach at Kentucky?
SCHNELLENBERGER: There were two times in my career where we were looking at each other, the University at me and me at the University. In both cases the timing wasn’t right, one time for the University and the timing wasn’t right for me, so it never could. Obviously, a lot of things have to come together right for all parties for something like that to really happen.
TAYLOR: Can what Bear Bryant did there happen again?
SCHNELLENBERGER: Why not?
TAYLOR: Was Paulie Miller as good a coach as Bear Bryant?
SCHNELLENBERGER: At his level he was equal to and very close to surpassing him.
TAYLOR: What are you doing now?
SCHNELLENBERGER: I am an ambassador at large at Florida Atlantic University. I retired after 2011, at that time I was in my 54th year of coaching. I had been there for 14 years, I was in the last year of a five-year contract. Our beautiful 30,000 seat stadium was built and in place and it looked to me like my God was telling me that this was the place to step aside, let a new group come in, have an orderly transition, unlike what happened with Bobby Bowden.
I deplored what happened there and I didn’t want that to happen at my University. They first offered me a position of ambassador, but as I looked around the campus and saw the senior students squiring young freshman around to orientation and on their chest was a pin that said “Ambassador,” and I didn’t think I wanted to be one of those, so I asked if I could be “Ambassador at Large,” like Geraldo Rivera, and they agreed that that was a good idea.
TAYLOR: What exactly does that entail?
SCHNELLENBERGER: I’m raising money speaking wherever you can gather three or more in the name of Florida Atlantic University, I’ll be there to spread the gospel – they just call me the “Music Man.”
TAYLOR: Do you think Charlie Strong should stay at Louisville?
SCHNELLENBERGER: I think the University of Louisville should make it impossible for him to leave.