George O'Leary appointed new head football coach

by Notre Dame Sports Information

George O’Leary, head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets since 1994 and the Bobby Dodd national coach of the year in 2000, today was appointed the new head football coach at the University of Notre Dame by director of athletics Kevin White.p. White and Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, introduced O’Leary at a news conference attended by a large gathering of Notre Dame students, faculty, staff members and football ticket-holders in the Joyce Center arena on the Notre Dame campus. O’Leary takes over as the Notre Dame head coach effective immediately.p. Head coach at Georgia Tech since taking over on an interim basis late in 1994, O’Leary has revived the fortunes of the Tech football program in his seven full seasons. His team won co-champion honors in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1998 and he has led Tech teams to a current streak of five consecutive bowl games (best run at Tech since 1951-56 under Bobby Dodd when Tech played in six straight bowl games). From 1998 through this season his teams have posted a 34-14 record (.708). He was named ACC Coach of the Year in both 1998 and 2000 – and saw his Tech teams finish in the top 25 three straight years from ‘98 through 2000 (ninth, 21st and 17th in the Associated Press poll).p. "During his exceptional 22-year coaching career George O’Leary has been a pivotal figure with conference and national championship teams at both the professional and collegiate levels. He knows what championship football requires and how to coach young men to win at he highest level. His teams are exciting on offense, relentless on defense, and skilled on special teams," White said in announcing the appointment.p. “Just as important to us, George has a genuine passion for Notre Dame and for the qualities that make the University unique beyond athletics-our Catholic character, our high academic standards, our residential student life, and our traditions of community service and student volunteerism. I believe we’ve found a man who is ideally suited to become a part of Notre Dame, to energize our football program and to lead us, as someone once said, ‘onward to victory.’”p. “This is an exciting time for me. Notre Dame is the only job I would ever leave Georgia Tech for. It’s the pinnacle of all coaching jobs. In fact, I believe there are two great coaching jobs in all of sports, one being the manager of the New York Yankees and the other being the head football coach at Notre Dame,” said O’Leary.p. “While I can’t manage the Yankees, I feel fortunate to be invited to coach the Fighting Irish. This school embodies excellence in every way. My only wish is that my father could be here to see this day come true.”p. O’Leary’s 2000 team led the nation in total offense with a Tech record of 509.0 total yards per game. His exceptionally-balanced 1998 team defeated four nationally-ranked opponents while leading the ACC in scoring at more than 35 points a game, in net punting and punt and kickoff returns, and setting an NCAA defensive record with seven fumbles returned for touchdowns. That Tech team defeated Notre Dame 35-28 in the 1999 Gator Bowl.p. O’Leary also was the head coach when Georgia Tech met Notre Dame on Sept. 6, 1997, in the first game played in the expanded Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won that contest 17-13 on a late touchdown drive. As defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech from 1987-91 under head coach Bobby Ross, O’Leary directed the defense that led Tech to the United Press International national championship in 1990. That defense ranked in the top 15 nationally in every major statistical category after opening the season by not allowing a touchdown for 19 consecutive quarters.p. Among the biggest victories over ranked opponents in his career at Tech have been wins over four rated teams in ‘98 (including sixth-ranked Virginia) and fourth-rated Clemson in 2000.p. Among the recent standout players he has coached at Tech are quarterback Joe Hamilton (the 1999 Heisman Trophy runnerup) and current quarterback George Godsey, a two-year starter (he ranked sixth nationally in passing in ’00) who is the older brother of current Irish tight end (and former quarterback) Gary Godsey. He coached consensus All-Americans three straight seasons at Tech in center Craig Page in ’98, Hamilton in ’99 and offensive tackle Chris Brown in 2000.p. Two of his assistants have graduated to become head coaches – defensive coordinator Randy Edsall to Connecticut in 1998 and offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen to Maryland in 2001.p. Following his initial stay at Georgia Tech, O’Leary accompanied Ross to the National Football League’s San Diego Chargers, coaching the defensive line in 1992-93. In both those years his teams ranked second in the NFL in rushing defense, and the 1993 team led the AFC with 51 sacks as the Chargers won their first division title in more than a decade.p. O’Leary began his collegiate coaching career as defensive line coach (the last six years under Dick McPherson) at Syracuse University from 1980-86. During that time he coached five future NFL players, including first-round draft pick Tim Green, now a novelist and prominent football commentator.p. Green, who also played for O’Leary at Liverpool (N.Y.) High School, has called his former mentor “the perfect football coach. He’s incredibly tough and demanding. He toughens his players, demands sacrifice and perseverance, all the things essential to succeeding in football and life. But he does it in a way that doesn’t leave you bitter or remorseful, but inspired.” Said Ross of his longtime assistant, “George has the complete package: He’s an excellent coach, teacher, and recruiter.”p. As a head coach at Liverpool and Central Islip High Schools in New York, O’Leary won more than 82 percent of his games, compiling a 37-8-1 record from 1975-79. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Central Islip, his high school alma mater, on Long Island.p. A Central Islip native and the grandson of Irish immigrants, O’Leary earned a master’s degree in education from New York University in 1972 after having received his bachelor’s degree in 1968 from the University of New Hampshire. He played football at New Hampshire, earning three letters as a fullback. He’s currently on the Board of Trustees of the American Football Coaches Association.p. Born Aug. 17, 1946, O’Leary has been married to the former Sharon Littlefield for 32 years, and they have four children-daughters Chris and Trish and sons Tim and Marty (a senior free safety on the ’01 Tech team).p. p. p. p.

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