UCF head football coach George O’Leary has retired as the Knights’ head coach, the university announced in a press release Sunday.
“I have tremendous professional and personal respect for George and all he has done for UCF,” President John C. Hitt said in the release. “We’ve been successful in the classroom and on the field under his watch, and his achievements have helped build the bonds that unite Knights everywhere.
“This season has been difficult, and I support George’s decision to retire now so our program can begin planning for the future.”
Quarterbacks coach Danny Barrett will assume the role as the team’s interim head coach for the remainder of the season, but the new head coach will most likely come from outside of UCF’s football program, the release stated.
O’Leary’s announcement will end his 12-year tenure at UCF. It comes one day after the Knights’ worst home loss in school history and their worst season since 2004 (0-11), the year O’Leary took over the head coaching position.
“In recent weeks there has been much speculation about the head coaching position at UCF and my future plans. Hopefully this statement clarifies the facts,” O’Leary, 69, said in the release. “After the 2013 championship season and Fiesta Bowl win I expressed my intention to retire at that time. After significant discussion with the UCF administration, I reconsidered and agreed to coach two additional seasons, 2014 and 2015. The administration has always been aware of my plan to retire after this season.
“In an effort to allow UCF to accelerate its search for my successor and clarify the facts regarding my future plans, I am retiring effective immediately."
Although some fans had been pushing for the removal of O’Leary from the helm of UCF football this season, including a banner flown behind an airplane and countless fans sporting paper bags over their faces, he is credited for putting the program on the national radar.
He led the Knights to back-to-back American Athletic Conference Championships the past two seasons and has had 16 former UCF players drafted to the NFL, including Blake Bortles and Breshad Perriman in the first round. He also led the team to two Conference-USA championships (2007 and 2010), seven bowl appearances and 31 wins in the previous three seasons.
He holds an 81-68 record as UCF’s head coach – second-most in program history behind Gene McDowell’s 86-61 record – and has compiled a 133-101 record all-time as a college football head coach between his time at Georgia Tech and UCF.
O’Leary’s college coaching career began as the defensive line coach at Syracuse from 1980-84 before moving into a dual-assistant-coaching role from 1985-86. He landed in the Peach State as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator and defense line coach from 1987-91, where he won the NCAA National Championship in 1990 after finishing 11-0-1.
He spent 1992-93 as the defensive line coach of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers before heading back to college ball. After assuming the interim head coaching position at Georgia Tech in 1994, he took on the role full time from 1995-01. He spent 2002-03 with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings before taking the job as UCF’s head coach in 2004.
Behind seven coaches from Power 5 conference universities, O’Leary was the eighth longest tenured head coach in the FBS at 12 years.
“I again want to thank my coaches, players and loyal supporters for their efforts on this journey from the MAC to the AAC. Godspeed and go Knights,” O’Leary said in the release.
He recently stepped down as the interim director of athletics Oct. 12.
The Knights are 0-8 and travel to face Cincinnati Oct. 31 at noon.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.