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 BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) -Sometimes Howard Schnellenberger forgets the name of the school he's playing, or incorrectly identifies his players.
But through a career spanning almost half a century, the 74-year-old coach of Florida Atlantic hasn't forgotten one of his earliest lessons on how to build a program: play against the best, get the exposure and take your money. If you happen to win, even better.
The Owls travel to Michigan State on Saturday and then face Minnesota, the school FAU upset last year to propel its season and help claim its first Sun Belt championship - a giant step considering the program didn't even exist 10 years ago.
Playing against superior competition is something Schnellenberger first learned one summer in Louisville in the late 1940s. Trying to get better so he could make the varsity football team at Flaget High School, he'd travel to tough neighborhoods and play against guys bigger, stronger and faster.
ecently, ``but come fall, playing against everyone else was like playing against little kids. I was doing the butt kicking. And the next summer, nobody messed with me anywhere.''
He employed the tactic while coaching Miami to its first national championship in 1983, a title that launched the Hurricanes onto the national stage. He did the same when he jump-started Louisville, winning a Fiesta Bowl and getting an on-campus stadium built. And at FAU, he's raised millions for a stadium expected to open in 2010 - helped by money raised by big games elsewhere.
Schnellenberger knows the Owls aren't done taking their share of lopsided losses - like the 52-10 beating Texas gave them in the season opener. But if it means getting on national television, a seven-figure paycheck for making the trip and the chance for an upset that could catapult the program, Schnellenberger will take his share of hits because ``the big wins are what people remember.''
He's starting to use other old tricks, too.
Before the game at Texas, he reportedly told FAU's student newspaper the Longhorns weren't ``tough'' and that the Owls were. The comment ignited the Texas faithful, but it also started giving FAU players the kind of swagger Schnellenberger made famous at Miami.
probably didn't appreciate those comments, but I guarantee you they got a little nervous that week.''
These days, Schnellenberger's hair and mustache are snow white. Some of his pants don't reach his ankles, and the suspenders he often wears at practice look like something out of 1955. He still wears a crisp suit come game time, and his thick Southern accent is always present.
``His age just means wisdom,'' cornerback Corey Small said.
Schnellenberger's health is good - he said he dropped 30 pounds in the last two months on a new diet - but there are still moments when his age can't hide.
Before the New Orleans Bowl against Memphis, players recall a riveting speech, except that he kept referring to FAU's opponent as Memphis State - a name the school dropped 14 years ago. Players also say every now and then, he'll accidentally call a player the name of someone he coached decades ago.
``It's not that he does it intentionally. It's just that some things will always be the same to him,'' running back Charles Pierre said.
But most things Schnellenberger remembers vividly. January 2, 1984, for instance, is a date he can still give play-by-play analysis.
ys top-tier teams.
``You can work harder than anyone, but you still need some unusual things to happen,'' Schnellenberger said. ``People think I'm a crazy old fool. Well, this crazy old fool has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. I ain't dead yet.''

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