With another eight win season and leading UCF to its third bowl game in five years, head coach George O’Leary seems to be, once again, off the hot seat and back for another year.
The media sees that statistic and assumes that fans and students are happy with O’Leary, that everyone is happy to keep him around for another year. For the most part, this is true, but the echoes of demands for Charlie Strong still linger across campus.
Florida Gator Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong is an obvious candidate for any and all coaching vacancies across the country.
Only a year ago, rumors of Strong heading for UCF were...well...strong. A year and eight wins later, including the first over a ranked opponent, some students are still calling for O’Leary’s head and Strong’s phone number.
No doubt would Strong be a perfect fit for UCF. A defensive minded coach at the defensive-cultured UCF. An ambitious recruiter that could surely draw some more Florida talent into Orlando, and most importantly—a breath of fresh air for those still angry UCF fans that have called for George O’Leary’s head since last season.
Should UCF have gone after Strong last season, when the demand was weaker and UCF had a better chance to land him? Probably, that is, if we need him.
Should they go after him this time around? Only if we do not win this bowl game.
Yes, we made a bowl game and had yet another eight win season, and many people say that that is good enough. In fact, most schools in the FBS would be ecstatic to have three eight win seasons and bowl game invites in five seasons.
But we are not most schools, UCF is a Florida school, and eight wins and a loss in a bowl game is not good enough for any university in the college-football-crazy state. We want to be ranked Top 25. That is, after all, what George O’Leary said he wanted.
Let us take a look in history at the professional level of football. Before he was with the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy picked up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the depths of dreadfulness and consistently took the Buccaneers to the playoffs and had one of the best defenses in the league year in and year out. But his offense was too conservative and not explosive, and so he could never win the big game.
Sound familiar? It should. O’Leary and the Knights consistently have one of the best defenses in the country, but the offense is not explosive and most of the time holds them back from winning games.
The Buccaneers traded for Jon Gruden, a young, up-and-coming coach out of Oakland who proved he could win in the NFL. In Gruden’s first year, he led Tampa to its first-ever Super Bowl and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Dungy headed to the Indianapolis, where he teamed up with Peyton Manning and won his ring a few years later.
So, by following this model, either O’Leary needs to recruit a top-notch quarterback, which seems unlikely in a state including UF, UM, and FSU, or a new job.
Now, you may be able to point out many fallacies with this comparison, but the point is made—many coaches can pick up a team and lead them to mediocrity for years, but sometimes their job is to get the team out of the gutter and that’s it.
Many people expect them to eventually take the team to the next level, and the athletic program does not want to fire the coach because he has done so much for the team and university, but sometimes the job is over, and at some point the university needs to realize that, let Coach go, and take a breath of fresh air.
I am not a head hunter, I respect and am thankful for what George O’Leary has done, but I also realize that he may not be the one to get us to the next level and Top 25.
My argument may seem week with UCF headed to a bowl game, and would be completely obliterated in the minds of fans if the Knights were to win that bowl game, but my argument stands, and maybe next year someone will find this article in the archives of Bleacherreport.com and say, “Hey, this makes a lot of sense.”
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