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Irish's O'Leary resigns

Notre Dame's football coach, who falsified his academic and athletic accomplishments, quits after less than a week.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2001

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Football coach George O'Leary built his career on lies.

Five days after getting the job he always wanted at Notre Dame, the lies caught up with him.

O'Leary stunned and embarrassed one of the nation's most storied college programs by resigning Friday, admitting he had for decades falsified his academic and athletic credentials.

He claimed to have a master's degree in education and to have played college football for three years, but checks into his background showed those statements to be lies.

"Many years ago, as a young married father, I sought to pursue my dream as a football coach," O'Leary said in a statement released by Notre Dame. "In seeking employment I prepared a resume that contained inaccuracies regarding my completion of course work for a master's degree and also my level of participation in football at my alma mater. These misstatements were never stricken from my resume or biographical sketch in later years."

The 55-year-old former Georgia Tech coach signed a six-year contract Saturday night and was introduced as Notre Dame coach to the media and public Sunday. He promised to turn around an Irish program that became mediocre in five years under Bob Davie, who was fired Dec. 2 after the Irish posted a 5-6 record.

"Due to a selfish and thoughtless act many years ago, I have personally embarrassed Notre Dame, its alumni and fans," O'Leary said. "The integrity and credibility of Notre Dame is impeccable, and with that in mind I will resign my position as head football coach."

The search for a coach will begin immediately, athletic director Kevin White said, raising the possibility he might turn his attention again to Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Others who may have been contacted before O'Leary was hired include the San Francisco 49ers' Steve Mariucci, Oregon's Mike Bellotti and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, a former defensive coordinator at Florida.

The deception could cost O'Leary more than the job. Officials at Georgia Tech, which hired O'Leary in 1994, are considering their options for collecting the $1.5-million buyout O'Leary had in his Tech contract. If Tech decides to press the issue and seek compensation for loss of services, O'Leary could be personally responsible.

John Pendergast, legal counsel for the Tech Athletic Association, said he was unaware of any decision by AD Dave Braine that may have freed O'Leary from his obligation. Braine was not in Atlanta and was unavailable for comment.

This week, O'Leary said Notre Dame would pay the $1.5-million as part of his deal. It remains unclear whether the Irish will feel obligated to fulfill that promise.

The lies are an embarrassment to Tech as well as to Notre Dame.

"We probably will wind up being more diligent about this in the future in trying to make sure our facts are correct," Tech sports information director Mike Stamus said.

News of the resignation jolted the nation's most prominent Roman Catholic university, which has used football to help become one of the nation's premier schools.

"I understand that these inaccuracies represent a very human failing; nonetheless, they constitute a breach of trust that makes it impossible for us to go forward with our relationship," White said.

Casey Robin, a Notre Dame offensive guard who completed his eligibility this fall, said he agreed with O'Leary's decision to resign.

"He was talking about loyalty and even honesty, and obviously he didn't live up to that expectation," Robin said. "The team needs some honesty and loyalty from a coach."

A biography released by Notre Dame on Sunday said O'Leary received a master's degree from New York University in 1972. Sue Edson, athletic director at Syracuse, said O'Leary claimed the same thing on a biography sheet when he was hired as an assistant coach in 1980.

John Beckman, assistant vice president for public affairs at NYU, said O'Leary was a student there but did not receive a master's.

O'Leary also never earned a letter playing football at New Hampshire, even though his biography says he earned three. The school said he never played a game. Before arriving at New Hampshire, he attended Dubuque for two years in 1964-66 and played on the '64 team, school officials said.

"I can't understand how you could go all those years and not catch or correct it," former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian said. "That bio has been in the Georgia Tech guide for a number of years. Every year you read your own bio and you can correct any mistakes. You add or delete things every year. All those years it was in there. How did it get in there?"

Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday was surprised by the lies.

"I never knew anything could happen like this before," he told Sporting News radio. "(We've) just got to keep going on and find a new coach in a hurry."

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