Legendary football coach Howard Schnellenberger dies at 87

Howard Schnellenberger at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, on December 23, 2014. The legendary football coach died at age 87. By Wayne Sterling, CNN

(CNN) -- Howard Schnellenberger, the legendary football coach who led the University of Miami Hurricanes to national prominence after winning the school's first national title, has died.

Schnellenberger passed away on Saturday at age 87, his family announced through Florida Atlantic University.

"Howard always allowed me to be a part of his football life," Beverlee Schnellenberger, who was married to the coach for 61 years, said in the release. "Watching him on the sidelines was an opportunity that gave us a special closeness -- win or lose -- that not many wives get. Even though he never smiled, he was always smiling in his heart. We loved all the moves and challenges."

"I will miss his warm heart, his warm hands and soft kisses. Howard always treated me special, like a queen, and was truly a husband that every Canadian girl dreams of," she added. "You will always be my love, now and forever. I'm proud to be your wife. You were a great leader of men and the leader of our lives."

Schnellenberger brought Miami into the national spotlight, turning around a program that finished the 1979 season at 5-6 to a powerhouse that finished the 1983 season at 11-1 and a national championship.

"The loss of Coach Schnellenberger is immeasurable in so many ways for the University of Miami family," Blake James, director of athletics at the University of Miami, said in a statement. "He helped our University grow during a critical period of time and established a foundation for future success, on the football field and off. He will be remembered as so much more than a coach. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, former colleagues and players. He will forever be a Hurricane."

Schnellenberger left Miami after the 1983 championship season with a 41-16 record. The Hurricanes would go on to win four more national titles -- in 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001.

"Without him, there is no Miami Football. Howard Schnellenberger leaves behind a legacy more impactful than he'll ever know. Our thoughts are with his family and friends," the school's football program tweeted Saturday.

Schnellenberger went on to coach the Louisville Cardinals, Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Atlantic Owls.

The University of Louisville football program wrote on Twitter Saturday, "The impact he had as a coach at Louisville & on the game of football is immeasurable."

The Oklahoma Sooners added, "The OU family joins in mourning the loss of former head coach Howard Schellenberger."

Florida Atlantic said just one word: "Legend."

Schnellenberger retired from coaching in 2011 with a career record of 158-151-3 and 6-0 in bowl games. He coached seven National Football Playoffs games. He also served as offensive coordinator under head coach Don Shula for the 1973 Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins.

In January, he received Bear Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award, which "recognizes the career accomplishments of college's finest football coaches."

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