Pondering the past few weeks, as coaching changes occur right and left, I've thought pretty hard about how a coaching departure would be received around UCF, compared to how they are received at other schools around the nation.
There is no doubt that if George O'Leary found his way out of Orlando, the mood would be very different around Central Florida.
While dealing with an extreme situation, and no one could blame them, Tennessee Volunteer fans are up in arms after Lane Kiffin has departed so swiftly. The situation in itself shows a disrespectful move on Kiffin's part, while the fans of such a tradition laden school are left to decide between a new head coach from schools like Duke or Air Force.
A few hundred miles south of Knoxville, George O'Leary has led UCF to a winning season every other year in his tenure, a few bowl game losses, and a Conference USA championship in 2007. Despite what may be perceived as a reign of success in Orlando, O'Leary is not highly touted by a large percentage of UCF fans.
Don't get me wrong, O'Leary has not steered UCF into any type of losing record to warrant his release from the head coaching position. He has been steady and inconsistent at times, but has surely provided some amount of excitement with his teams.
Recruiting classes are much improved, there are more UCF fans than ever, and the team is gaining more and more notoriety. Yet, in the hearts and heads of most UCF fans, there is always a feeling of underachievement.
Most people at UCF will remember the win over Tulsa for the conference title or upsetting Houston this past year, but at the same time will hold memories of coming up short against top 25 teams like USF and Texas on their home field, or losing all too close at Miami in 2008.
So many times O'Leary has been presented a chance to come up with a signature win, and every time he has left the field on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Winning the C-USA title and beating a ranked Houston team is great, but whether you can call those signature wins is debatable.
What makes UCF feel this way is the pure pride that any athletics fan at the school has. The fact that unbeknown to most of the college football world, there is a school in Orlando with 50,000 students, untouchable facilities, and a campus that is unmatched in quality.
Most coaches will say "if we can get a recruit on to the UCF campus, we can probably get him to commit." Well, the problem is getting the players onto the campus when the team itself has been unable to get over the hump of mediocrity.
It is purely my opinion that George O'Leary is simply the wrong coach at the wrong time for UCF. His style, his demeanor, and his performance do not match what I see is the character of the university itself.
In the same way that Lane Kiffin is everything that Tennessee was not, O'Leary is everything that UCF is not. Look at Jim Tressel who is the perfect coach for Ohio State because he carries himself in a stiff and respectable demeanor, running the perfect type of play to succeed in the Big Ten at a tradition rich university.
O'Leary currently holds the head coaching position at a University that is young, exciting, and pretty. His demeanor is smug, he's certainly not young, and his teams' style of play is anything but pretty.
Just ask yourself if you could see O'Leary leading a Utah team into the Fiesta Bowl instead of Urban Meyer in 2005 or a Boise State team to the BCS instead of Chris Peterson.
Until UCF gets into the BCS, it will most likely struggle to gain the notoriety of the BCS busters like Utah, Boise State, and TCU. And if UCF ever does become a BCS buster, it will be mostly because of the players who were recruited by other coaches on it's staff like David Kelly.
Don't get me wrong, UCF is still a football program on the rise, O'Leary or not. Look toward this year's recruiting class and you will realize that the standards and rankings of players heading to UCF aren't too far off from the elite level. The team probably has the athletes to succeed right now, so maybe O'Leary's time is the next few years.
My thoughts are simply that the school may deserve more than what it's getting currently. O'Leary may in fact be the person to propel the program even higher. Maybe a bid to a BCS conference that is sitting around the corner will provide O'Leary with the base to take the program to unforeseen heights, but right now he has brought too much mediocrity to a program that deserves more than to be average.
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