If George O’Leary gets his way, UCF will, in a few months, be searching for its first new head coach in over a decade.
In June of this year, O’Leary added the title of interim athletic director to his full-time job as head coach of the Knights. O’Leary has since hinted that he would like to assume the AD job full-time whenever his coaching career is done, which, as it turns out, may be sooner rather than later.
Citing two school officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Dan Wolken of USA Today reports that “O’Leary… has expressed a strong desire to assume the [AD] position full-time and step down as football coach at the end of this season.” A national search for a permanent AD is reportedly on hold as university leaders mull over the O’Leary option.
Should O’Leary land the full-time job — it appears that’s far from a guarantee as, even as he has the support of the president, others are opposed — he intends to promote offensive coordinator Brent Key to head coach. Key is set to enter his 11th season on O’Leary’s Knights coaching staff.
As noted, though, there are those who are against the idea of O’Leary running the athletic department on a full-time basis, especially as the “e” word continues to bubble just below the surface of the national landscape. From Wolken’s report:
However, there is significant concern among others at UCF about whether the 69-year old O’Leary, who has no prior experience in athletic administration and has been coaching in either college or the NFL since 1980, is up to the job, particularly with [former AD Todd] Stansbury and a handful of other senior-level staff members departing in recent weeks, leaving the department short-handed and somewhat in disarray.
“No one (on ground level is) tracking with the president on this,” one person said.
This would potentially be a bad time for UCF to have its athletic department in chaos, particularly if the Big 12 decides to expand. Because of its location and large alumni base, UCF is part of a group of teams that constantly comes up in conference realignment speculation.
O’Leary’s first head-coaching job at the collegiate level came at Georgia Tech from 1995-2001. After the infamous Notre Dame résumé flap, O’Leary spent a couple of years as an NFL assistant before taking over the Knights in 2004.
After an 0-11 first season, O’Leary has guided UCF to an 81-49 mark the last 10 years. The Knights have won four conference titles in that span — two in Conference USA, back-to-back AAC championships in 2013 and 2014 — and appeared in the football program’s first-ever BCS game following the 2013 season, a 52-42 win over Baylor.
Prior to O’Leary’s arrival, the Knights hadn’t played in a bowl game since their ascension to the FBS level in 1996; during O’Leary’s 11 years, the Knights have played in seven bowl games.