American Football Database
George O'Leary
File:George O'Leary-1-cropped.jpg
George O'Leary at Bright House Networks Stadium
Current position
TitleHead Coach
Annual salary$1.4 million[1]
Biographical details
Born (1946-08-17) August 17, 1946 (age 75)
Central Islip, New York[2]
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Syracuse (DL)
Georgia Tech (DC)
San Diego Chargers (DL)
Georgia Tech
University of Notre Dame
Minnesota Vikings (DC)
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
ACC Championship (1998)
2 C-USA Championships (2007, 2010)
4 C-USA East Division Titles (2005, 2007, 2010, 2012)
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, 2010)

George Joseph O'Leary (born August 17, 1946) is an American football coach, currently serving as the head football coach at the University of Central Florida. He has served as the head coach of the UCF Knights since 2004. O'Leary previously coached the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 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 brief 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.[3]


George O'Leary was born on August 17, 1946 in Central Islip, New York.[4] O'Leary is married to Sharon O'Leary and they have four children; two daughters, Chris and Trish, and two sons, Tim and Marty. Marty was a senior free safety on the 2001 Georgia Tech team that his father coached.[5]

O'Leary earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in physical education from the University of New Hampshire, where he graduated in 1968.[4]

Coaching career

Early years

He began his coaching career at Central Islip High School in New York, serving as their assistant coach from 1968-1974. From 1975-1976 he served as the head coach at Central Islip.[5] He then became head coach at Liverpool High School in New York from 1977-1979. During his time at the two high schools, between 1975 and 1979, O'Leary amassed a 37-8-1 record, winning more than 82% of his games.[4]

His initial collegiate coaching job was as the defensive lines coach at Syracuse. He served in this capacity from 1980–1984. Between 1985 and 1986, O'Leary took on the added responsibility of being the Orange's assistant head coach.[5] His next assignment was at Georgia Tech, serving as their defensive coordinator and defensive lines coach from 1987-1991. During this tenure, the team finished 11-0-1 in 1990 and won the national championship, defeating Nebraska at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Following his initial stint with the Yellow Jackets, O'Leary received his first coaching job in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, serving as the their defensive lines coach in 1992 and 1993.[4] In 1994, O'Leary would return to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as their defensive coordinator and defensive lines coach, and eventual head coach.[5][6]

Georgia Tech

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 for 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 after he had left Georgia Tech and Chan Gailey was the Head Coach it was revealed that the Georgia Tech football program used ineligible players while O'Leary was head coach.[7] These infractions were due to the deficiencies in the school's academic administration who had incorrectly accounted for student-athletes credit hours 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.[8] 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, inaccuracies were discovered in his published biographical sketch. In the biographical sketch, it stated that O'Leary had earned a master's degree from "NYU-Stony Brook University," a non-existent institution and actually two separate institutions over 50 miles apart.[9] In fact, he had taken only two courses at SUNY - Stony Brook, and never graduated.[10] 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.

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."[11]

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.[5]

University of Central Florida

File:UCF at the Texas goal line.jpg

UCF vs. Texas during the inaugural game at Bright House Networks Stadium

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 3-point 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 had opened the 2007 season on the road 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 an eight-loss season in 2008. The losing season, in conjunction with the controversy surrounding the death of Ereck Plancher, led many to 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, defeating #13 Houston 37–32 at Bright House Networks Stadium.[12] 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.

In 2010, for the first time in school history, the Knights were ranked following a nationally televised 40–33 upset road victory against Houston. After winning 5 straight games, and posting an 11-game conference winning streak, UCF was ranked in all three major college polls released on November 7, 2010. The Knights were ranked 25 in the AP Poll, 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 25 in the Harris Poll.[13] UCF fell just short of garnering a BCS ranking, placing 27th.[14] UCF finished the 2010 regular season with a 10-3 record, after winning the Conference USA Championship over the SMU Mustangs, 17–7, and earning the Knights second invitation to the Liberty Bowl. The Knights ranked 25th in the final BCS standings, marking the first time UCF has ever been ranked in the BCS standings. UCF also ranked 24th in Coaches Poll, 25th in Harris Poll, and were unofficially ranked 26th in the AP Poll. For the third time in his tenure at UCF, George O'Leary won C-USA Coach of the Year honors.[15] He then led the Knights to a 10–6 Liberty Bowl victory over the SEC's Georgia Bulldogs and final rankings of 20 and 21 in the Coaches and AP Polls, respectively. The bowl win and 11 total wins were two more firsts for the Knights, capping off the most successful year in team history.

2011 proved to be a disappointing season as UCF finished with a losing record, and were not bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. Following an investigation into recruiting violations in the men's basketball and football programs in 2011, on July 31, 2012, the NCAA announced sanctions – in addition to penalties UCF had already self-imposed. The NCAA imposed a one-year postseason football ban for the 2012 season, in addition to a $50,000 fine, five years' probation, reduction of football scholarships, and tighter limits of football recruiting visiting days.[16][17]

Death of Ereck Plancher

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.[18] 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 died; 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.[19] After a 14–day trial in 2011, a jury found the UCF Athletics Association guilty of negligence in the death of Plancher. The jury awarded each of his parents $5 million.[20]

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.[21][22][23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] The overall team cumulative GPA for the fall 2009 semester is 2.99.[27] 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.[26]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Atlantic Coast Conference) (1994–2001)
1994 Georgia Tech 0–3 0–2 9th
1995 Georgia Tech 6–5 5–3 4th
1996 Georgia Tech 5–6 4–4 5th
1997 Georgia Tech 7–5 5–3 T–3rd W Carquest 25
1998 Georgia Tech 10–2 7–1 T–1st W Gator 11 9
1999 Georgia Tech 8–4 5–3 T–2nd L Gator 21 20
2000 Georgia Tech 9–3 6–2 T–2nd L Peach 19 17
2001 Georgia Tech 7–5 4–4 T–4th W Seattle* 24
Georgia Tech: 52–33 36–22 *The Seattle bowl was coached by Mac McWhorter.
UCF Knights (Mid-American Conference) (2004)
2004 UCF 0–11 0–8 7th (East)
UCF Knights (Conference USA) (2005–2012)
2005 UCF 8–5 7–1 1st (East) L Hawaii
2006 UCF 4–8 3–5 4th (East)
2007 UCF 10–4 7–1 1st (East) L Liberty
2008 UCF 4–8 3–5 5th (East)
2009 UCF 8–5 6–2 2nd (East) L St. Petersburg
2010 UCF 11–3 7–1 1st (East) W Liberty 20 21
2011 UCF 5–7 3–5 5th (East)
2012 UCF 10–4 7–1 1st (East) W Beef 'O' Brady's
UCF: 60–55 43–29
Total: 112–88
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


  1. USA TODAY College Football Coach salary database, 2006-2011 USA Today. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
  3. UCF Football Coach O’Leary Signs 10-Year Contract Extension
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "George O'Leary appointed new head football coach". University of Notre Dame. 2002-12-18. Retrieved 2010-11-08.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "George O'Leary". Georgia Tech Athletic Association. Retrieved 2010-11-08. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "tech" defined multiple times with different content
  6. "Biography: George O'Leary". UCF. 2009-03-15. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  7. "Georgia Tech Penalized for Allowing Academically Ineligible Student-Athletes to Compete, Lack of Institutional Control". NCAA. 2005-11-17. Retrieved 2007-09-16.
  8. "NCAA Overturns Part of Penalty for Georgia Tech". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2006-05-18. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  9. "Dick Weiss, By George, It's Blarney, N.Y. Daily News, Dec. 15, 2001". New York. 2001-12-15.
  10. ", Academic, Athletic Irregularities Force Resignation, Dec. 14, 2001.".
  11. O'Leary out at Notre Dame after one week
  12. UCF finally beats ranked team
  13. "UCF ranked No. 23 in coaches poll and No. 25 in AP, vaulting into Top 25 for first time in school history". Orlando Sentinel. 2010-11-07. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  14. Bennett, Brian (2010-11-07). "Big East and the BCS standings". ESPN. Retrieved 2010-11-08.
  15. "O'Leary wins C-USA coaching award". 2010-12-08. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  16. "NCAA adds 1-year postseason bans to UCF penalties". WESH TV Orlando. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  17. "NCAA adds 1-year postseason bans to UCF penalties". NBC News. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  18. "Report: Plancher showed signs of distress at end of workout". 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  19. "Report: Conditioned for death: Could UCF have prevented the Ereck Plancher tragedy?". 2008-11-02. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  20. "Ereck Plancher trial: Jury finds UCFAA guilty of negligence in Plancher's death". Chicago Tribune. 2011-06-30.,0,4467871.story. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  21. UCF Football To Honor 66 For Academic Achievements
  22. UCF Football Posts Another Strong Academic Semester
  23. Knights Make ESPN Academic All-District Team
  24. UCF Football Coach O’Leary Signs 10-Year Contract Extension
  25.,0,3881801.story "Knights make the grade" by Kyle Hightower, 12/22/2007
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Successful student-athletes get decal" by Caitlin Smith, 09/08/08
  27. “Scholar-Baller” Decal on 69 Helmets

External links