Schnellenberger remains popular in south Florida, and he served as honorary captain for both sides in the season opener between FAU and Miami. But otherwise, he is staying out of the spotlight.
"Coach Schnellenberger has been very supportive; really, he's been hands-off," Pelini said. "When I took the job here, he became an ambassador for the university, working more on the fund-raising side. He's been good about that.
"He offers help when I need it, and yet I don't feel like he's looking over my shoulder all the time, which gave me the freedom to build my own program."
Pelini has seen his share of program building. He served as graduate assistant and later a restricted-earnings coach at Kansas State, in the early days of coach Bill Snyder's near-magic building there. In 2005, he was brought to Ohio as part of Frank Solich's first Bobcats staff.
Talk about two head coaches with patience in abundance.
"That's something I thought really prepared me for this, because when we got there it was really down," Pelini said. "I got to watch a guy meticulously go about building a program and believing in his process and sticking to his guns, even early on when he was getting some criticism - people were in too much of a hurry.
"He stuck to his process and believed in what he was doing, and look where it got him."
FAU finished 3-9 in Pelini's first season of 2012. In its first season in Conference USA, FAU's record (2-4, 1-3) isn't exactly shiny.
Yet, it wasn't unreasonable before the season to expect the Owls to be 0-6 headed into Saturday's 5 p.m. home game with Marshall. But here's the thing: The Owls just as easily could be riding a four-game winning streak into Saturday.
They lost 42-35 to Middle Tennessee on a slick fourth-down interception in overtime and had Rice on the ropes until Greg Hankerson, subbing for injured quarterback Jaquez Johnson, committed three late turnovers.
"I kind of felt like our play had kind of shown we belong in this conference," Pelini said. "We've got a lot of improvement to make, but we potentially could a team that does just fine in Conference USA."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.