FAU Field to Be Named After Howard Schnellenberger

After being named for a prison accused of human rights violations and after almost being named for an apparent homophobic fast-food restaurant, the Florida Atlantic University football field is finally getting a name that everyone will love and isn't a total lapse into bad taste.

FAU announced Wednesday that the football field where the Owls play their home games will be named after former FAU head coach and University of Miami legend Howard Schnellenberger.

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On Wednesday, the university's board of trustees had a conference call during which they approved the name.

FAU President John Kelly says that Schnellenberger's name is forever synonymous with FAU football and that it's only right the field they play on should bear his name.

"The University, the community, and fans of college football everywhere look to Coach as the consummate leader, and are thankful for all he has done for the sport," Kelly says in a news release on FAU's website. "I know FAU will always remember this as we cheer our team on the beautiful field that will forever bear his name."

Schnellenberger, who made a name for himself after building the original Miami Hurricanes' national-championship teams of the 1980s, became FAU's inaugural coach after being hired to be the university's director of football operations in 1998.

He played a key role in getting the stadium, which opened October 15, 2011, built for the university.

Schnellenberger made an immediate impact on the team, leading the Owls to their first-ever bowl victory in 2007, when FAU won that season's New Orleans Bowl.

"I am humbled beyond belief that the University would bestow this great honor on the Schnellenberger family, and me personally," Schnellenberger says in the release. "This is probably the highlight of my coaching career. Thanks to the FAU Board of Trustees, the University, the fans, the players and the coaches that were an integral part of this."

The naming of the field is a tribute to a great coach, which is a far cry from where the stadium's name was a little over a year ago.

After opening in 2011, the stadium, like most stadiums, was looking for a sponsor. In came Geo Group, a Boca-based prison company that operates correctional facilities throughout North America and has deviled a notorious reputation for severe human rights violations.

One report says federal inspectors found too few guards on duty at one particular facility. The place had broken cell locks, and there were reports of guards being stabbed, bitten, punched, and kicked by inmates, with GEO doing very little about it all.

Reports like this one led to clashes with human rights groups and gay, lesbian, and transgender groups.

The stadium was also given the sarcastic "Owlcatraz" moniker by students and media.

It also led to FAU student protests over the naming rights, which eventually led to the resignation of then-FAU President Mary Jane Saunders, who was accused by a student of sideswiping her in the parking lot during a protest.

Even while facing pressure, the board of trustees and Saunders said at the time that they would not revoke the Geo Group name.

Until, of course, they did.

FAU plans a ceremony to honor Scnellenberger during the Owls' first game of the season, against Tulsa on Saturday, September 13. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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