LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Howard Schnellenberger believes he should be allowed one losing season while rebuilding the University of Louisville's football program.
He will probably get it.
Midway through his first year, he already has endured his worst loss as a college coach and watched the Cardinals give up more than 600 yards in two games.
He sours when pressed on the importance of a winning record, but he also notes that it takes time to craft a competitive team.
"It took Indiana 16 games in a row (to get a victory)," he said. "Kentucky was 0-10-1 Jerry Claiborne's first year. Charlie Pell, when he took over at Florida, he didn't win a game his first year, he was 0-10-1.
"But look what we've done since then. Kentucky's gone to a bowl for two years. Indiana is 4-0. Florida is ranked in the Top 20." And Miami (Fla.), 5-6 its first year under Schnellenberger, won the national championship in 1983. Schnellenberger brought a miracle-worker image to Louisville last December, though he never promised immediate results. Despite the Cardinals' 1-4 record entering Saturday's game with Southern Mississippi, he seems content with the progress made so far.
"We are two years behind what I found at Miami," Schnellenberger said in a recent interview. "I committed myself to building a program. I'm not going to change my objective after five games.
"I'm disappointed, not frustrated. We didn't play as well as we can play. The young players have no precedent to fall back on to overcome early adversities and bounce back."
Schnellenberger isn't accustomed to losing. As an assistant coach, his professional and college teams went 129-29-10. At Miami, he had a 41-16 record in five seasons as head coach.
Louisville, which hasn't had a winning season since 1978, handed Schnellenberger his worst loss as a college coach when Syracuse whipped it 48-0.
Other low points include allowing Houston 671 yards and 49 points, and giving up 622 yards to Indiana in a 41-28 loss.