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Legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger will begin his season-long farewell tour in Gainesville, FL on Sept. 3 as the Florida Atlantic Owls come to town to take on the Florida Gators.
Having previously visited Florida once with FAU but a number of times when he coached both Miami and Louisville, Schnellenberger remembers what it is like to play the Gators in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and believes the showdown will be the perfect way to begin his swan song.
"It's going to become more nostalgic after each game," he said.
Schnellenberger's team began getting ready for Florida nine practices out - the same process they've maintained for every opening game they have had his entire career. "That's been good for us," he said. "When we've had an even opportunity to win, we've won more than we've lost."
Even though Florida will be starting the season with a brand new head coach in Will Muschamp, Schnellenberger does not believe that will make FAU's preparation that much harder. He knows that the Gators are in a class above the Owls but will do his darndest to give his team a chance to pull off the upset.
"If our two programs were closer together in the level at which they're playing, it would be more difficult to get ready for a team like that, that's had all summer to put their thing together [with a new coaching staff]. If they play a sound game and play a hard-fought game, they surely should win the game," he said.
"They can do a lot of different things. What we have to do is, we have to go out there and start out playing solidly, try to get a feel for what they're trying to do - whether its throw the ball, run the ball at a 50/50 mix or to be powerful and pound it in on us or conversely stretch it out and throw the ball all over the lot. They have the ability to do all of those things. Hopefully we'll find what their trend is and hopefully we'll give them a defense that will make it an interesting game."
Though he hopes Muschamp succeeds in the long run, Schnellenberger stopped short when asked if he would give him any advice on how to have a long, illustrious career.
"I sure don't. Throw the ball to us and open up a hole for us every once in a while," he joked before giving a serious reply. "I wish them well throughout his coaching career there, and I wish him a very long career."
In his season opening press conference on Monday, Muschamp expressed his high level of appreciation for Schnellenberger and what he has done throughout his 52 years on the job.
"I have great respect of Schnellenberger as a man who has done an awful lot for the coaching profession. The job he did for Miami, Louisville and Oklahoma," he said. "I felt that he was the best developer of quarterbacks and teacher of the quarterback going through the 80's and where he is today. So, I have great respect for him and the football team that he's bringing here."
Schnellenberger - whose storied college coaching career includes a national championship at Miami, the recruitment of Joe Namath to Alabama and at least one football complex that bears his name (in Louisville, FAU may name one after him shortly) - will look to overcome his four-game losing streak in The Swamp, a venue that has had his number for the last 29 years. Win or lose, it will be a great way to begin his last season walking the sidelines.
"[My retirement is] coming after quite a bit of deliberation," he explained. "I've given this decision a lot of thought because after 52 years of marriage and 52 years of coaching, this appeared to be probably the most sensible time to make this announcement about my stepping down."