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When Howard Schnellenberger met Mick Jagger

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One of the greatest Louisville stories ever told.

HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER

Howard Schnellenberger was known for a number of things during his time at Louisville, but perhaps three things above all others. He won football games, he ran an extremely tight ship, and he cursed like a sailor after one or eight too many drinks. The last two of those qualities would come together on one glorious autumn day that Mick Jagger would never forget.

Louisville’s 1989 season had gotten off to a solid start. The team had gone on the road for each of its first two games and had managed to secure close victories over both Kansas and Wyoming. After a week off, the Cards were finally going to play a home game at Cardinal Stadium, and the opponent was a West Virginia team that was unbeaten and ranked ninth in the country. To no one’s surprise, Schnellenberger was on edge.

Adding to the excitement in the city of Louisville that week was the fact that the Rolling Stones were coming to town for the ninth stop on their Steel Wheels Tour. The legendary band would play at Cardinal Stadium four days before U of L would.

With a complex set needing to be built in preparation for the show, the Stones’ roadies took over the visitor’s locker room inside the stadium. With that move in came a pinball machine, a ping-pong table, and a number of similar items that began to distract U of L players attempting to workout in the adjoining weight room. Schnellenberger was furious, but willing to contain his anger to those within earshot.

A boiling point arrived on the day before the show when Schnellenberger noticed an unfamiliar face strolling around his facility unsupervised. To everyone else in the building, the man was Mick Jagger, one of the biggest music stars in the world. To Schnellenberger, a man never shy about admitting that he had little interest in music or any other type of popular culture, he was just a stranger walking somewhere where he wasn’t supposed to be.

A member of Louisville’s staff at the time who still wishes to remain anonymous recalls what transpired next:

“Howard had been fed up all week, and this was just the last straw. So he screams at the top of his lungs, ‘Hey boy! Get the fuck out of my weight room!’ Without any hesitation, Mick Jagger goes scurrying off. And he looked terrified.”

When other members of the staff informed Schnellenberger of the name of the man he had just run off, the head coach remained unimpressed.

“He pointed right at us and said, ‘I don’t give a fuck if he’s Mickey Mouse, get him out of my goddamn weight room.’”

The staff members broke it down even further. They explained to Schnellenberger that Mick Jagger was the front man of one of the most popular musical acts in the world, one which had made millions and millions of dollars. The last fact seemed to impress the head coach, who walked away without saying anything more.

Scene two came about 30 minutes later.

“About a half hour later, we see Schnellenberger walking with his arm around Mick Jagger saying, ‘let me show you our Hall of Fame, Mickey.’ He was giving him the same tour that he gave to all our potential donors at the time, I guess because he thought he might be able to get some money out of him.”

Of course the softer side of Schnelly could only do so much.

“Mick Jagger still looked scared shitless. He definitely didn’t give us any money.”