Schnellenberger Resigns After One Season
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ When he introduced Howard Schnellenberger as Oklahoma’s football coach, athletic director Donnie Duncan called him a ``builder of programs.″
Today the builder is looking for another program.
Schnellenberger announced his resignation Monday, one year and two days after being hired. He said he made the decision after recently evaluating the program with Duncan.
``I felt we made significant progress on many fronts, both on and off the field, that will serve this program for many years to come,″ Schnellenberger said.
``But in recent months a climate has developed toward the program, understandably in some cases and perhaps unfairly in others, that has changed my outlook on the situation. A change could help improve that climate.″
The Sooners were just 5-5-1 during Schnellenberger’s only season, during which they played poorly on the field and groused off the field.
``Overall my decision is simply based on a realistic evaluation of the situation, what needs to be done at OU and what is best for our family at this point,″ he said.
The announcement came two days after a newspaper reported that Schnellenberger often exceeded the NCAA’s time limits for practices. The coach and Duncan both said that report had nothing to do with the decision.
University president David Boren said the resignation was voluntary, and that neither he, Duncan nor the school regents made an issue of the poor season.
The handling of the announcement was rather unusual. There was no news conference. Instead, the news came via a statement issued by the sports information office.
Duncan wasn’t even on campus for the announcement. Schnellenberger didn’t make himself available for comment, but did issue a brief, videotaped statement in which he essentially repeated everything that was on the written statement.
Duncan, reached late Monday, said a search committee would be formed soon and that he hoped to have a new coach named by the first week of January. He would not comment further on the resignation.
``It’s a personnel matter and it’s a resignation and the only person who can really comment on that is Howard,″ he said.
Schnellenberger, 61, was hired Dec. 16, 1994, signing a five-year deal with a base salary of $125,000. The total package, including revenue from television shows and other perks, was reported to be worth close to $500,000 annually.
The new coach’s outgoing personality was a welcome change from his predecessor, Gary Gibbs, and Schnellenberger’s promise to turn things around helped revive fan interest in the team.
Interest heightened when the Sooners won their first three games and reached No. 10 in the Associated Press poll. But then they lost to Colorado by 21, starting what would be a run of disappointing showings in big games.
After having to rally to beat Iowa State, the Sooners lost by 21 at home to Kansas and by 39 to Kansas State.
The lowest point was a 12-0 loss to Oklahoma State, the Sooners’ first loss to their in-state rival since 1976. After the game, a player and an assistant coach got into a shouting and shoving match.
The Sooners’ only two victories after their 3-0 start came against Iowa State and Missouri, two of the weakest teams in the Big Eight. During the season, the Sooners had seven punts blocked or in some way botched.
The highlight of the year may have been the only game Oklahoma didn’t win or lose _ a 24-24 tie with Texas, when the Sooners rallied from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit.
The Sooners set a team record for penalties. The offense became less productive each week during the final two months, and the problems with the special teams were almost comical.
``I thought we would do better this year,″ Schnellenberger acknowledged when the record fell to 5-3-1. ``I sure thought we would do better this year.″