O'Leary will get five-year contract

Updated: December 9, 2003, 9:29 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ORLANDO, Fla. -- George O'Leary was hired Monday to coach Central Florida, giving him another chance in college football two years after Notre Dame forced him to resign because he falsified his resume.

O'Leary, the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator for the past two seasons, said he chose Central Florida because he saw the opportunity to build the program into a national powerhouse.

"I see the University of Central Florida as a sleeping giant," O'Leary said at a news conference.

O'Leary acknowledged the problems in his past, saying he was ready to move on. He had lied about earning a master's degree and receiving three letters playing football at New Hampshire. He resigned less than a week after Notre Dame hired him in 2001.

"I made a terrible, terrible mistake as a youngster and I paid a dear price for it," he said. "I'm truly sorry for that ... My past is my past."

Central Florida president John Hitt said a thorough background check was done on O'Leary, and he was confident he made the right decision in hiring him.

"I think he deserves another chance," Hitt said. "How he handles that chance, of course, we'll all be watching to see."

That financial package would be far more than what UCF has paid in the past. Kruczek made $185,000 a year.

O'Leary will receive a five-year contract worth about $700,000 annually, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports -- far more than the $185,000 former coach Mike Kruczek made per year.

UCF spokesman John Marini said he did not know the details of O'Leary's contract.

Central Florida fired Kruczek late in the season, and he was replaced on an interim basis by Alan Gooch on Nov. 10.

O'Leary, the former Georgia Tech coach, wasn't out of work long after his brief stay at Notre Dame. After leaving in mid-December 2001, O'Leary was hired by the Vikings less than a month later.

At Georgia Tech, O'Leary had a 52-33 record from 1994-2001. UCF athletic director Steve Orsini was Georgia Tech's senior associate athletic director during O'Leary's tenure there.

O'Leary will finish the season with Minnesota, which is 8-5 and in position to make the playoffs.

He is a taking over a UCF program battered by losses on the field and discipline problems off the field.

Although the Golden Knights were expected to contend in the Mid-American Conference's East Division, their 3-9 record was their worst since 1984. Coincidentally, that was the last year the program lost a coach during the season.

In addition, the Knights had eight players, including four starters, suspended this season for various infractions.

UCF has been competing at the Division I-A level for eight years, and the 2002 season was its first as a member of a conference after 23 as an independent.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.