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George O'Leary
George O'Leary at Bright House Networks Stadium
George O'Leary at Bright House Networks Stadium
Title Head Coach
College UCF
Sport Football
Conference C-USA
Team record 34-41
Born August 17, 1946 (1946-08-17) (age 63)
Place of birth Central Islip, New York[1]
Annual salary $1 million[2]
Career highlights
Overall 86-74
Bowls 3–5
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
ACC Championship (1998)
C-USA Championship (2007)
2 C-USA East Division Titles (2005, 2007)
ACC Coach of the Year (1998, 2000)
AFCA Region I Coach of the Year (1998)
Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2000)
C-USA Coach of the Year (2005, 2007)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Georgia Tech (DC)
San Diego Chargers (DL)
Georgia Tech
Minnesota Vikings (DC)

George O'Leary (born August 17, 1946) is the head football coach of the UCF Knights football team that represents the University of Central Florida located in Orlando, Florida; he previously coached the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team from 1994 to 2001, and served as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2002 to 2004. O'Leary is widely known for his success with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, his scandalous tenure as head coach for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and for coaching the UCF Knights to the fourth-best turnaround in NCAA history in his second year with the team.[2]


Coaching career


Georgia Tech

George O'Leary's first stint at Georgia Tech was 1987-91 as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach. [3] During this tenure, the team finished 11-0-1 in 1990 and won the national championship, defeating Nebraska at the Florida Citrus Bowl. After 2 years as the San Diego Chargers defensive line coach, George O'Leary returned back to Georgia Tech as the defensive coordinator.

In the 1994 season, O'Leary took over the program as interim head coach with three games remaining in the season, after then head coach Bill Lewis was fired, due to the team's 1–7 record just three years after winning the 1990 National Championship. He was later named the head coach prior to the 1995 season. After two off years, O'Leary rebuilt the program into a consistent winner, leading the team to a victory in the 97 Carquest Bowl in Miami, Florida. O'Leary's 1998 team went 10–2, defeating its archrival the University of Georgia for the first time in 7 years, as well as the University of Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. For the remainder of his tenure at Georgia Tech, the team went to a bowl game every season.

O'Leary won the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the year in 2000 and the ACC Coach of the Year Award in 1998 and 2000. During his seven-year stint at Georgia Tech, O'Leary guided the Yellow Jackets to a 52–33 (.612) record, including five bowl appearances. From 1995–2001, Georgia Tech recorded five winning seasons in six years, including the 1998 ACC Co-championship and an appearance in the Toyota Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. O'Leary's Georgia Tech teams won at least seven games four times during his tenure, including a 10-win season in 1998 and a nine-win campaign in 2000.

During an NCAA investigation, it was revealed that the Georgia Tech football program used ineligible players while O'Leary was head coach.[4] These infractions were due to the deficiencies in the school's administration and were not attributed to O'Leary or his staff. The initial requirement that Georgia Tech vacate the performances of the football team for games in which these ineligible players participated was overturned on appeal.[5] Further, Georgia Tech was placed on probation and lost scholarships because of the violations.

Notre Dame

In 2001, O'Leary left Georgia Tech to take over as the head coach for the University of Notre Dame. A few days after he was hired, he was discovered to have had inaccuracies on his resume. On the resume, O'Leary claimed that he had earned a master's degree from "NYU-Stony Brook University," a non-existent institution.[6] In fact, he had taken only two courses at NYU, and never graduated.[7] He also claimed that he had earned three letters in football at the University of New Hampshire, when the school claimed he had not even played in one game.

Notre Dame initially supported O'Leary when the discrepancies concerning his athletic career at New Hampshire came to light, as O'Leary assured the school that there was nothing else they needed to know. When further background checks found that O'Leary had falsified his academic credentials as well, the school asked for his resignation on December 13, 2001.

O'Leary said in a statement released that day, "Due to a selfish and thoughtless act many years ago, I have personally embarrassed Notre Dame, its alumni and fans."[8]

O'Leary blamed the inaccuracies on "resume padding" that had followed him through his career, admitting: "In seeking employment I prepared a resume that contained inaccuracies regarding my completion of course work for a master's degree and also my level of participation in football at my alma mater. These misstatements were never stricken from my resume or biographical sketch in later years."

Minnesota Vikings

In 2002, O'Leary was hired as the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach by Mike Tice for the Minnesota Vikings and served for two seasons. He was credited with improving the 2002 Vikings defense to 10th in the NFL, after it was ranked 30th in 2001.

University of Central Florida

O'Leary left the Vikings in 2004 to become the head coach at the University of Central Florida. In his first season, the Knights posted their worst season in school history with an 0–11 record.

The team rebounded in 2005 after joining Conference USA. The team finished the season with an 8–3 record (7–1 in C-USA). UCF defeated Rice to clinch the C-USA East Division and earned the right to host the first-ever C-USA Championship Game, a loss to Tulsa that was played in front of more than 51,000 people. The team would then go on to play in the Hawaii Bowl, barely losing to Nevada after UCF kicker Matt Prater missed an extra point in overtime. The Knights were just the sixth team in NCAA history to go to a bowl a year after going winless. O'Leary was named Conference USA Coach of the Year in addition to being named National Coach of the Year by and Facing an 11-game schedule with just four home games, O'Leary's UCF squad became just the fourth team in NCAA history to earn a bowl berth while playing seven road games in an 11-game schedule.

During O'Leary's leadership, UCF has made more of an effort to improve the athletic facilities on campus. On September 15, 2007, it opened its 45,000 seat on-campus football facility, Bright House Networks Stadium with a loss to the Texas Longhorns on ESPN. O'Leary was instrumental in getting state-of-the-art practice fields and an indoor football practice facility, the only one of its kind in Florida. UCF opened the 2007 season with a 25–23 victory against ACC team NC State. This was the first victory over a BCS conference team in the O'Leary era. After a 64–12 loss to cross-state rival USF, UCF successfully finished the season leading the C-USA East Division, and again earned the right to host the C-USA Championship in its first season at Bright House Networks Stadium. In a rematch of the 2005 Conference Championship game, the Knights would again face the University of Tulsa in the title game. This time, however, O'Leary would lead the Knights to their first ever Conference Championship, a feat that would land the Knights a bid to the 2007 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN. This was the second bowl berth in school history (the first coming in 2005 also under O'Leary) and the second one in three years.

O'Leary led the Knights to a 8-loss season in 2008. The losing season, in conjunction with the controversy surrounding the death of Ereck Plancher, lead many question whether O'Leary's tenure at UCF was coming to a close. O'Leary remained and made significant changes to his coaching staff for the 2009 season. George O'Leary once again lead UCF to bowl eligibility during the 2009 season, and on November 14, 2009, Coach O'Leary lead the Knights to their first win in program history against a nationally ranked opponent, routing out #13 Houston 37-32 at Bright House Networks Stadium.[9] For the third time in five years the Knights were bowl eligible and faced the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl, losing 45-24.

Ereck Plancher death

On March 18, 2008, running back Ereck Plancher died after conditioning drills. According to four UCF football players interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel, Coach O'Leary verbally abused Plancher throughout the workout, and continued to push the young man to perform despite what they reported to be obvious physical signs that Plancher was in no shape to continue.[10] According to the four unnamed players, O'Leary cursed at Ereck Plancher in a post-workout huddle. Plancher collapsed shortly after the workout and was immediately attended by UCF athletic trainers. He was then transported to a nearby hospital where he died approximately one hour later.

Subsequent to the Orlando Sentinel article, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" program on November 2, 2008 interviewed players who were at the training session at which Plancher became ill and after which he passed away; they stated that the session was longer and far more rigorous than O'Leary and other UCF Athletics officials have admitted to publicly. They also alleged that O'Leary and other coaches had initially warned players against providing assistance to Plancher when he became visibly distressed. UCF medical records indicate that UCF coaches and trainers knew that Plancher had a sickle-cell trait which could lead to problems, and even death, during high-intensity workouts.[11]

Academic success

George O'Leary has reshaped the UCF football program in regard to improved academic results in the classroom and overall team discipline on and off the football field.[12][13][14] Since O'Leary's arrival, UCF has posted its top two fall semester team grade point averages in the classroom. The Knights set a new school Division I-A history record with a 2.78 team GPA in 2004, only to break that mark with a 2.808 team GPA in the fall of 2005.[15] In 2005, UCF placed 39 student-athletes on the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, the most of any football squad in the conference. O'Leary's first recruiting class showed 82 percent of the class receiving academic honor roll accolades. The impressive honor roll number was not limited to the newcomers as 40 percent of the entire team earned a 3.0 GPA or higher during the fall 2004 semester.

The Knights academic success continued during the Fall 2007 semester, when the Knights had an in-season team GPA of 2.753. This brought the cumulative GPA of the Knights' roster to 2.838. Furthermore, 44 members of the roster posted a GPA of 3.0 or higher.[16] For the fall 2008 semester the Knights combined cumulative grade point average was 2.969, and has been as high as 3.035 following the 2007 summer semester.[17 ] The overall team cumulative GPA for the fall 2009 semester is 2.99.[18] According to UCF's associate director of Academic Services for Student-Athletes, UCF football players are required to attend 10 hours of study hall a week, with at least two hours completed each and every night.[17 ]

Head coaching record

George O'Leary
Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (ACC) (1994–2001)
1994 Georgia Tech 0-3 0-6 10th
1995 Georgia Tech 6-5 5-3 4th
1996 Georgia Tech 5-6 4-4 5th
1997 Georgia Tech 7-5 5-3 4th W Carquest
1998 Georgia Tech 10-2 7-1 T-1st W Gator 11 9
1999 Georgia Tech 8-4 5-3 2nd L Gator 21 20
2000 Georgia Tech 9-3 6-2 T - 2nd L Peach 19 14
2001 Georgia Tech 7-5 4-4 4th W Seattle
Georgia Tech: 52-33 36-22
UCF Knights (MAC: 2004, C-USA: 2005-present) (2004–present)
2004 UCF 0-11 0-8 7th (East)
2005 UCF 8-5 7-2 1st (East) L Hawaii
2006 UCF 4-8 3-5 4th (East)
2007 UCF 10-4 8-1 1st (East) L Liberty
2008 UCF 4-8 3-5 5th (East)
2009 UCF 8-5 6-2 2nd (East) L St. Petersburg
UCF: 34-41 27-23
Total: 86-74
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.


  2. ^ a b UCF Football Coach O’Leary Signs 10-Year Contract Extension
  3. ^ "Biography: George O'Leary". UCF. 2009-03-15. Retrieved 2009-03-15.  
  4. ^ "Georgia Tech Penalized for Allowing Academically Ineligible Student-Athletes to Compete, Lack of Institutional Control". NCAA. 2005-11-17. Retrieved 2007-09-16.  
  5. ^ "NCAA Overturns Part of Penalty for Georgia Tech". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2006-05-18. Retrieved 2007-09-27.  
  6. ^ "Dick Weiss, By George, It's Blarney, N.Y. Daily News, Dec. 15, 2001".  
  7. ^ ", Academic, Athletic Irregularities Force Resignation, Dec. 14, 2001.".  
  8. ^ O'Leary out at Notre Dame after one week
  9. ^ UCF finally beats ranked team
  10. ^ "Report: Plancher showed signs of distress at end of workout". 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2008-06-26.  
  11. ^ "Report: Conditioned for death: Could UCF have prevented the Ereck Plancher tragedy?". 2008-11-02. Retrieved 2008-11-02.  
  12. ^ UCF Football To Honor 66 For Academic Achievements
  13. ^ UCF Football Posts Another Strong Academic Semester
  14. ^ Knights Make ESPN Academic All-District Team
  15. ^ UCF Football Coach O’Leary Signs 10-Year Contract Extension
  16. ^,0,3881801.story "Knights make the grade" by Kyle Hightower, 12/22/2007
  17. ^ a b "Successful student-athletes get decal" by Caitlin Smith, 09/08/08
  18. ^ “Scholar-Baller” Decal on 69 Helmets

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Bill Lewis
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football head coach
Succeeded by
Chan Gailey
Preceded by
Alan Gooch
UCF Knights football head coach
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Frank Beamer
Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award
Succeeded by
Ralph Friedgen


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