Monday, June 7, 2010

Schnellenberger, Harwell, Wooden & Hall

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

During the past 30 days, ironically, on May 4 and June 4, my eyes have been quite misty due to the deaths of longtime Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame Broadcaster Ernie Harwell and legendary UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden.

Harwell's death was extremely difficult because the last time I saw him was on my 46 birthday on December 29, 2008, just a few days after FAU defeated Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. Ernie was an uncle to me as well as a colleague, who I met in 1982 in Clearwater, Florida during Spring Training. He passed away at the age of 92 due to Bile Duct Cancer on May 4.

What made the last trip to Detroit so special was being able to see Ernie and watching another dear friend FAU Coach Howard Schnellenberger lead the Owls to their second straight bowl victory. Even though this trip was the last time I saw Harwell, we did exchange e-mails and spoke on several occasions.

During this trip, after the Motor City Bowl, I took the nine hour drive down I-75 South to see the FAU Basketball Team face the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on December 27. I had the good fortune of writing a story on legendary Wildcats Coach Joe B. Hall.

I came away from Rupp Arena with the feeling that Kentucky Basketball is in a class by itself with 24,000 passionate coaches screaming, cheering and second guessing every play.

On Friday Night, Wooden passed away due to Natural Causes at the age of 99, just four months shy of his 100 birthday on October 14, 1910.

I feel very privileged that I had the opportunity to meet Coach Wooden on January 4, 1992, when I was in Los Angeles to cover a UCLA game against the Georgia Bulldogs.

I don't remember the score of the game nor do I care to research it. When I entered Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, all I remember were the championship banners in the rafters.

During half-time, as I did with Hall, I interviewed Coach Wooden for 20 minutes.

It was the best 20 minutes of my life!

I learned so much from Coach Wooden and he was kind enough to sign my media guide. I have that interview stored away in a safe place.

Schnellenberger, Harwell, Wooden and Hall are icons.

As fans and media members, we need to appreciate not only the championships and big victories between the lines, but the legacies they leave us outside the lines.

Schnellenberger has his national championship with the Miami Hurricanes and his name will be at the new on campus stadium at FAU.

He is “The Father of FAU Football.”

Harwell is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Wooden and Hall are NCAA Men's Basketball Champions with legendary programs who are beloved in their communities.

My advice to FAU football fans this fall is even though there are only four home games at Lockhart Stadium this fall, enjoy Schnellenberger's tenure. When his coaching days are over, his shoes will be as large to fill as Harwell's Wooden's and Hall's.

Scott Morganroth'a blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com. and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.



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