Resilient O'Leary directed UCF turnaround

Updated: December 22, 2005, 1:44 PM ET
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- George O'Leary doesn't worry about resumes nowadays. He's too busy winning.

O'Leary has orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in college football, leading once hapless Central Florida (8-4) to its first ever postseason appearance Saturday against Nevada (8-3) in the Hawaii Bowl.

A win would cap a Cinderella season for the Golden Knights and provide a little redemption for O'Leary, who was ousted as coach of Notre Dame in 2001 after admitting to falsifying his academic and athletic credentials on his resume for decades.

But O'Leary, the Conference-USA coach of the year, isn't about 'I told you so' or speculating about what could have been in South Bend, Ind.

"I don't get involved in that. I think things happen for a reason and all I've ever done is try to do the best job with what I have," he said Tuesday.

In his second season at UCF, the Golden Knights snapped what was the nation's longest Division I-A losing streak at 17 games. They went on to win eight of their next nine before losing to Tulsa 44-27 in the Conference-USA championship game in front of a record home crowd of 51,978.

Central Florida is trying to tie the 1940 Stanford team for the second-biggest one-season turnaround in NCAA football history. Hawaii's 1999 team has the record with an 8½ game improvement over its 1998 record.

While peering out at the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean from the team's hotel in Waikiki, O'Leary seems to have officially put the Notre Dame debacle behind him for good.

He got his dream job at Notre Dame in 2001, only to resign a week later after his resume was questioned. His claims of having a master's degree in education and being a three-year college player at New Hampshire were ultimately proved untrue.

"The two things I have is perseverance and resiliency. Those are two key words with me," said O'Leary, a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year at Georgia Tech.

His players are happy how it turned out and said O'Leary never discussed what happened at Notre Dame.

"Never mentioned it. He was just about getting down to business," UCF defensive end Paul Carrington said. "It kind of sets an example of, you never dwell on the past."

Nevada coach Chris Ault, the Western Athletic Conference coach of the year, joked that the turnaround was all in O'Leary's game plan.

"I told him last night, you're a hell of a lot smarter than I was," said Ault, who is in his 21st season with the Wolf Pack. "I went out and won five games in our first year."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press