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Howard Schnellenberger on Auburn’s 1983 Championship Claim: “I’m Flabbergasted”

Howard Schnellenberger
University of Miami Athletic Director Blake James presents a football jersey to Howard Schnellenberger prior to the game on August 30, 2013. Schnellenberger was the Miami head coach when they won their 1983 national championship. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Good luck finding a college football debate with the ferocity and longevity of national championship claims. Discussing the haves and have nots of the sport is much like kicking an ant bed. Take one shot at a team’s title count and watch how incited a fanbase becomes. 

The latest controversy came when Auburn decided to increase its national championship count from two to five with a simple click of the mouse. Citing NCAA records, the athletic department’s website added the years 1913, 1983, and 1993 to its previously-recognized championships in 1957 and 2010.

Members of the media and fans alike have sounded off on the change with black and white opinions on whether these extra years should be celebrated. Those debates will rage on, but one opinion that will carry more weight than most is that of Howard Schnellenberger.

The former NFL and college head coach took a Miami program from mediocrity in 1979 to a national championship in 1983, the same year that the Auburn Tigers are now claiming as their own. During that season, Schnellenberger’s Hurricanes beat #1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for the school’s first championship.

You’re probably wondering how he feels about the recent news.

“What are they going to do, override the people who have decided the national champion the past 100 years?”

“You can’t just go out and say you’re number one.”

Miami finished the year with one loss in 1983 and received national championship recognition from every major outlet: Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, National Football Foundation, UPI, and USA Today/CNN. Nebraska and Auburn were the other two schools recognized by one of the many national champion selectors that year, but only Auburn officially claims 1983.

“It was special (winning the ’83 championship) because of what [my players] had done the previous four years.”

We haven’t heard from Bobby Bowden, who won the national championship at Florida State in 1993, the same year his son Terry went undefeated at Auburn. One would have to guess that he feels pretty similar to Schnellenberger, especially considering the Tigers were on NCAA probation and banned from postseason play.

Either way, the debate will continue well into the playoff era.

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