Oklahoma turned to a builder of football programs to return the Sooners to national prominence, hiring Howard Schnellenberger to replace Gary Gibbs on Friday.

Schnellenberger led Miami over five years from the brink of extinction to a national title in 1983. In 10 years at Louisville he won nearly half his games and took the Cardinals to two bowl games. That was a program that in the decade before his arrival had only two winning seasons.His college record is 96-71-2.

"It is exciting for a 60-year-old coach who has coached for a long time to be given the assignment and trust and confidence to lead this program," Schnellenberger said.

"I'm not used to leading a great program and coming in in the shadows of Bud Wilkinson and all the other great coaches you have had here."

Pending approval by the school's regents, Schnellenberger will be given a five-year deal worth a base salary of $125,000 per year.

Schnellenberger's hiring came on the same day Oklahoma State named Bob Simmons as its head football coach, replacing Pat Jones. Jones had resigned Nov. 22, one day after Gibbs announced he was stepping down effective after the Sooners play BYU in the Copper Bowl on Dec. 29.

Athletic director Donnie Duncan said Schnellenberger's name had been on his list of candidates from the start. He first approached Schnellenberger in an informal setting in New York last week, then talks got serious Wednesday and Thursday.

"From a standpoint of a feeling of confidence . . . Howard has been in that picture all along," Duncan said. "He's a great coach who's done it the hard way who seemed like a great coach for the University of Oklahoma."

Schnellenberger lends an established coaching name to Oklahoma. The Sooners, winners of six national titles, have not even won a Big Eight title since 1987 and this season finished 6-5 and in fourth place in the conference.

He said it is his "avowed goal" to restore the program to national prominence.

This challenge will be different than those he faced at Miami and Louisville, where he had to just about start from scratch. Gibbs resigned under pressure in part because he was 2-15-1 against Texas, Colorado and Nebraska. But he has had strong recruiting classes the past few years, and the majority of Oklahoma's starters return next season.

"This old body of mine can't be rebuilt, but it sure can stand some sprucing up and some training and some rejuvenation, and that's what I'm hopeful I can bring to this organization, some rejuvenation," he said.

"Maybe it's time that I take the elevator halfway up the mountain and then focus in on the summit."

Schnellenberger was 54-56-2 in 10 seasons at Louisville and went to the 1991 Fiesta Bowl and the 1993 Liberty Bowl. That Fiesta Bowl team finished 10-1-1.

The Cardinals went 6-5 this year. They were 9-3 a year ago, with losses to West Virginia, Tennessee and Texas A&M, three teams that combined to go 30-2-1.

Before going to Louisville, Schnellenberger coached at Miami from 1979 to 1983 and led the Hurricanes to the 1983 national championship.