ORLANDO, Fla. – George O’Leary has relinquished his dual-position title, officially stepping down as UCF interim athletic director and centering his focus solely to coaching.
“When I signed the contract, what was in there, and what agreed to is that I’d let them know by October 15th if I had an interest in being the full time AD, and I met with Dr. Hitt; who’s really been the only one I’ve dealt with the whole situation and it was my decision,” O’Leary confirmed at his weekly press conference.
O’Leary cemented the fact that it was his decision to be made multiple times throughout the 20 minute conference. Coaching is where the passion lies, and stepping down from the athletic director position came down to a matter of disinterest more than the free-fall of the season.
“No one else made that decision except me and I just thought, really I don’t have an interest in being an AD. I’m not into ‘kumbaya’ or bureaucrats and all of the things that you have to do with that,” O’Leary said.
Though the vast majority of the Knights’ plummet from the top cannot be attributed to his time in double-duty – UCF leads the nation with 30 first time starters and has had to play 71% of its’ signing class, the most of the O’Leary era – something has to give after the worst start in over a decade for the football program.”
“It had nothing to do with the football. What’s affecting the football team is the people on the field. When you lose 15 scholarships, when you lose nine starters, when you have the injuries that we’ve had that’s the end result,” he said.
Blaming the coaches may be a futile gesture in such a situation. There is only so much one coach can do when faced with such overwhelming odds, when 14 walk on players are forced into action over one season.
“You walk around with your head high,” O’Leary said. “I see the coaching that’s going on here and you can’t catch a ball for them.”
With the way the season has transgressed so far and the shadow of retirement that has hung over the organization since the conclusion of the Fiesta Bowl, it is fair to wonder what the immediate future holds for the face of UCF football.
“I said that I basically would let him [President Hitt] know at the end of the season. That’s my only true love, is coaching,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary continued on to say that he had no other hobbies and wasn’t sure what else he would do after football. The administrative roll was a brief wade into the waters of retirement, but the old-school football coach just didn’t get the same amount of satisfaction from those duties.
Even still, relinquishing the position may be a serious tell-tale about what happens after the season. UCF will begin the search to fill the vacancy immediately as the off-season will require a great amount of administrative attention in regards to operations next year; operations O’Leary is seriously considering he will not be present for.
“There’s a lot of important decisions that have to be made and I could have continued to go on; but if I’m not going to be here I wouldn’t want to be involved in those decisions,” he said.
Brad Strickland will assume the mantle in a corresponding move and has the full backing of O’Leary after months of running the show behind the scenes. O’Leary claims that 98% of his time as a head football coach and was more AD in title than anything else, only meeting with a senior administrative staff once a week.
It remains to be seen what the fate will be of the UCF Football program in response to this move, however, it would appear that the end of the George O’Leary era is visible through the cloudy waters.