Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Tremendous Ride!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There is only one reason why I am covering FAU Football.

To have the opportunity to be reunited from our Miami Hurricanes days in 1982 and 1983 with Howard Schnellenberger was something I couldn't pass up when former Deerfield Beach Observer Editor Ric Green gave me this opportunity in August of 2007.

Green made the commitment for me to write once a week and at the beginning there were weekly coaches conference calls on Sunday Nights.

Due to the economy, unfortunately, my column appears once a month, but I'm still thankful that the newspaper never gave up on the vision of Green and Myself. I wish I could do more but this ride has lasted a GREAT four years.

I've met some incredible people and have enjoyed my association with Sports Information Director Katrina McCormack, her assistant Justin Johnson along with Athletic Director Craig Angelos and former President Frank T Brogan.

During the past two weeks, it's been tough to watch Schnellenberger's Owls lose consecutive home Sun Belt Conference Games and not be competitive in opening their new on-campus stadium. Western Kentucky blanked FAU 20-0 in the opener on Oct 15 and a week later Middle Tennessee hammered FAU 38-14.

Before the Western Kentucky contest, a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Statue Unveiling of Schnellenberger commemorated the culmination of events that led to shirts which read "The House That Howard Built."

We all know that without Schnellenberger, nobody would know about Florida Atlantic University nationally. He put the university on the map. The new on-campus stadium has led to an increase of admissions plus the national television exposure has been priceless.

I'm so proud of Schnellenberger that on My Facebook Page, My main photo is with the two of us together in his office. It will remain there for as long as I am a member of Facebook.

When Schnellenberger announced that his 52-year coaching career would end at the completion of the 2011, I was happy for a three reasons.

1) He was leaving on his own terms and while he knew he wouldn't win a National Championship with FAU, what better way to go out on top than coach in the stadium that your efforts, visions and dreams made a reality!

The statue of Schnellenberger was just the beginning of more honors that he'll receive in the future. I predict that a road will be named after him as well as the field at the new stadium.

2) He should be able to enjoy everything he's accomplished with his wife Beverlee and the rest of his family.

3) I'm happy for myself because I was able to stay on the beat until he retired. I've learned so much from coach the past four years and he's been a father figure to me as well. Despite my serious back injuries, he made sure I was comfortable while I was doing my job. He always gave me advice when I needed it. He's the most accessible coach I've ever worked with in 32-years in Sports Media.

As I watch Schnellenberger go through a tough season just trying to get a win, he still does a nice job trying to find solutions to his teams struggles.

These days, I can relate to the adversity he's facing.

During the past two months, I've had to take a hiatus from writing. I am facing some major decisions about My future in South Florida after 10 years in the area. I plan to seek a professional opinion within 60 days.

While I've enjoyed my time in the area and moved here from Chandler, AZ., to be closer to my parents, a fresh start is inevitable. My time here in town has been rough for many reasons as I realize that there is more to South Florida than it's Sunshine and Beautiful Beaches.

I hope to make a final decision at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012.

My goal now is to enjoy the Final three home games at FAU Stadium, cover another Shula Bowl in Miami against FIU in November as well as an All-Star Game at FAU Stadium in January with My Favorite Coach of All-Time.

So for Coach Schnellenberger and I, there are at least five games left in "Our Reunion."

His Final FAU Home Game will be on Dec 3rd against Louisiana Monroe at 4 PM.

I know by then, Angelos will have his successor in place. That successor will inherit a program that has a New Orleans and Motor City Bowl victory along with a beautiful stadium that's expandable to 65,000.

But what a ride it's going to be until December 3rd. The All-Star Game in January will see Schnellenberger against former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, who was forced out by the Seminoles, and replaced by Jimbo Fisher a year ahead of schedule. This game will be icing on the cake.

While I haven't written my final swan song covering FAU Football yet, at least I know that I have fulfilled a prophecy, and like Schnellenberger, I'm going to cherish every moment until the end.

To be a part of the Opening of a New Stadium after working at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale was real special.

There is no statistic or number that describes how much fun I've had the past four years. It's been A Tremendous Ride!

Should I see FAU Stadium on TV in the future, it will be an extremely proud feeling to know I was there when it opened after all the hard work it took to make it happen.

More importantly, Coach and I can look forward to fresh starts in 2012.

Hopefully, a season finale win on Dec 3rd will be a great way to end 2011.

Even if FAU were to finish 0-12, the record doesn't matter because the foundation is in place for great things to come in future years to come. The new coach will continue the next era of FAU Football That The Father of the Program Schnellenberger built from scratch.

I've always lived by the philosophy "To live everyday as if it were your last."

When my days are over, those special family members who have died will definitely be informed of my great memories with Coach Schnellenberger culminating in his Mini Palace of Boca Raton.

I will be very proud when I mention the great memories, in addition to opening up this new stadium, to go along with past sports highlights that include that include covering four Super Bowls and the closing of Detroit Tiger Stadium in 1999.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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