Howard Schnellenberger, who coached Miami to a national football championship and left, was hired today to coach at the University of Louisville.

Schnellenberger did not coach this season after a deal with the U.S. Football League fell through. Today's signing, which had been rumored for weeks, was sealed this afternoon in a meeting of Louisville's Athletic Association board of directors, then announced by the school's president, Donald Swain.

"Very few coaches in their lifetime have an opportunity to take Cinderella to the ball twice," Schnellenberger said after introducing his wife Beverlee and family to several hundred cheering Louisville boosters.

"I've been there once and I think I have the opportunity to do it here again . . .

"I'm not going to promise a championship in five years . . . but when we take the field next year we will do so with the single purpose of winning every single football game. Our goal is to be a nationally prominent football program.

"We want to be a team that will challenge for the championship. I hope quickly. But, in either event, we will challenge and challenge and challenge."

The Miami Herald reported that Schnellenberger, 50, was offered a five-year contract, worth at least $250,000 a year, that would guarantee him $1 million cash if he stays 10 years. Schnellenberger said it was "a long-term agreement that will insure stability on everyone's part."

Swain said former governor John Y. Brown Jr. was the key to sealing the deal, lining up outside business interests for his former University of Kentucky classmate.

This is a sentimental homecoming for Schnellenberger, a former University of Kentucky all-America who moved to Louisville as a child and went to high school here.

After coaching Miami to its championship last January and a 41-16 record in five seasons, Schnellenberger quit to become coach of the USFL's Washington Federals. That fell through when the league announced a switch to a fall schedule and the team failed to move to Miami. The Federals later moved to Orlando.

Louisville officials never made any secret of the fact that Schnellenberger was No. 1 with them. Bob Weber resigned as Louisville coach on Oct. 30, but finished out a dismal 2-9 season, the worst in a five-year career during which the Cardinals won only 21 games.

Schnellenberger came into a similar situation at Miami five years ago. The Hurricanes had had six coaches and eight losing seasons in the preceding decade.