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MEDIA CONTACT: Katrina McCormack

FAU Athletics Names Carl Pelini as Head Football Coach

Pelini to Assume Helm of Owls Team Which Began in 2001

BOCA RATON, FL (December 5, 2011) – Florida Atlantic University Athletics named Carl Pelini as its head football coach today during a press conference in the Recruiting Lounge of FAU Stadium, Boca Raton campus.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in FAU football, and I am pleased to have Carl Pelini join the FAU family as the new leader of our team,” said FAU President Mary Jane Saunders. “I look forward to what lies ahead for FAU football with Pelini as the head coach, as well as the excitement he will bring to both FAU’s students and fans.”

Pelini’s selection brought closure to a national search that was conducted by FAU’s Athletics Director Craig Angelos and a University advisory committee. As the new head coach of FAU’s football program, Pelini brings more than 25 years of football experience at both the collegiate and high school levels.

“With Howard Schnellenberger’s announcement of retirement in August, I had an extended period of time to identify a number of quality candidates,” said Angelos. “After a lengthy span of interviewing, evaluating and in-person meetings, I strongly believe that Carl brings the most to FAU. His experience, organization, discipline, passion, recruiting and accomplishments will lead the Owls to the next level. With the addition of our beautiful new stadium and the fertile recruiting area that exists in South Florida, I firmly believe that Carl will make FAU a national contender very soon.”

Pelini’s football philosophy is based on his enthusiasm and demand for effort by his team and staff each day. Pelini comes to FAU from the University of Nebraska, where he served as its defensive coordinator since 2008. His daily mindset helped lead the Cornhuskers to the nation’s top spot as a defense.

“I would like to thank the FAU administration and the University community for this opportunity,” said Pelini. “I see great potential here at FAU to build a program of which the entire community will be proud. My vision for this program is to continue the mission of the university to prepare our student-athletes for success well beyond football.”

A believer that success begins with fundamentals and effort, Pelini spent more than 10 years at the high school level where the teaching of fundamentals begins. His first coaching stint began at Cardinal Mooney High School (Ohio) where he served as an assistant from 1987-88. He also served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Blue Valley High School (Kansas, 1993-94). Pelini gained his first head coaching experience at Winnetonka High School where he also was the athletics director (Kansas, 1995-99). He then went on to be the head coach at Austintown Fitch High School (Ohio).

The Ohio native gained experience as a defensive coordinator at Minnesota State Mankato (2004), and helped revitalize a struggling program at Ohio University where he was the defensive line coach for three seasons (2005-07). In 2008, he moved back to Nebraska and assumed the position of defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. During that time, he was afforded the opportunity to drop his split time defensive duties and focus his sole attention to the overall defense. Pelini’s role in the resurgence of Nebraska’s defense has been recognized by his two-time nomination for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year Award.

“FAU football is in great hands with Carl Pelini at the forefront of the University’s program,” said Robert J. Stilley, chair of FAU’s Board of Trustees. “His leadership philosophy, past experience, along with his remarkable communication skills, all will be key in leading FAU football to the next level. FAU’s Board of Trustees welcomes Pelini and looks forward to the future accomplishments of FAU’s football team.”

Pelini began his collegiate experience at Columbia University in New York, where he was a member of the football team, but completed his undergraduate degree in English literature at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Kansas State University, and a master’s degree in education from Ohio State University.

Pelini’s efforts in South Florida will begin immediately replacing Howard Schnellenberger, FAU’s first football coach and builder of the program who announced his retirement in August. Since the program’s first season in 2001, the Owls have captured the Sun Belt Conference title in 2007, and won the 2007 New Orleans Bowl and the 2008 Motor City Bowl. FAU was the youngest NCAA football program to advance to and win a bowl game, and the only program in the state of Florida to win back-to-back bowls in 2007 and 2008. Currently, four FAU players are working with NFL teams. Quarterback Rusty Smith was the program’s first NFL draftee as a sixth round pick by the Tennessee Titans. Tight end Rob Housler became the program’s highest player to be drafted as a third round selection in 2010 by the Arizona Cardinals. Linebacker Michael Lockley and wide receiver Lestar Jean were free agent selections in 2010 by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans, respectively.

“Carl Pelini has done a fine job working with our defense here at Nebraska. Our defense made excellent improvement in his first year as defensive coordinator, and over the past three years we have been among the nation’s best defenses,” said Tom Osborne, athletic director and former football coach at Nebraska. “Carl is a very intelligent coach, is detail-oriented and with his coaching experience, I believe he is ready to take the next step as a college head coach. We wish him well at Florida Atlantic.”

For more information on Carl Pelini or FAU football, visit


Florida Atlantic University Athletics :
FAU Athletics is comprised of 18 intercollegiate teams involving 450 student athletes that compete in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track, and volleyball. The Owls are a NCAA Division I-A (FBS) institution and compete in the Sun Belt Conference in all but men’s soccer, which participates in the Mid America Conference. The Owls have been playing football since 2001 and have captured two bowl games. Cheer and dance are also part of the athletic department family and represent the University annually in competition and within the community.

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. In commemoration of its origin, FAU is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

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