Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™
December 23, 2001
O'Leary: "No Animosity"
For White, Notre Dame
By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
George O'Leary told ESPN, in an interview aired Sunday night on the network's "Sunday Night Conversation" that he was asked to resign by Notre Dame after inaccuracies were uncovered in his bio. O'Leary, however, went on to say that he was "not going to fight" the resignation request and held no animosity toward Notre Dame or his boss of five days, Athletic Director Kevin White.
White pulled the trigger on O'Leary, asking for the resignation by telephone while O'Leary was recruiting in the Washington, D.C. area.
In related news, ESPN also reported Sunday night that Notre Dame has offered current University of Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel a deal worth more than $2 million annually to come to South Bend and coach the Fighting Irish. Neuheisel continues to say he has no plans to leave Washington but also hedged with the classic "None of us have a crystal ball and knows what the future holds."
Here is the complete transcript of the ESPN interview between O'Leary and ESPN reporter Mike Tirico.
GEORGE O'LEARY: It was a job you had basically coached all your life and all of a sudden it's taken from you. I don't know if there is much room left on the dartboard after this week. I think I'm very sorry for that, not correcting what I should have corrected. I think I'm paying a dear price for it.
MIKE TIRICO: Did you know as you were going through the last five, six years of your coaching career here at Georgia Tech that your playing record said you were a letterman and played for a couple of years at New Hampshire when you hadn't.
GO: Yes, I did. It was something I did 22 years ago. After I was working at Syracuse, it was in a press guide, was not on a résumé. I did attend the University of New Hampshire, went through pre-season, was ineligible that year and decided not to play football. That's something I am wrong with and shouldn't have done.
MT: How did the NYU Masters in Education part become a part of your résumé as you went through these stops?
GO: I went back with counsel tried to check on the records at Georgia Tech, and in 1987, in the spring guide, it's not there. And there's no paper trail on it either. In the fall press guide of 1987 it appears. Obviously it had to come from me, from speaking with somebody, but there's no paper trail on it at all in 1987.
MT: There's been stories about documentation of a résumé that was put into your file when you came back to Georgia Tech to be the head coach here. That résumé includes the playing situation and, more importantly, the Masters. Did you write or type a résumé that you handed to the folks at Georgia Tech that said ‘I have a Masters'?
GO: No, that's one thing that is a gray area. I'm pretty aware of what would happen. I was made an interim head coach with three games left that year and then soon after was named head coach and was never asked for a résumé. One thing, in 1987, there was never any paper work on anything. But in 1994 there was a piece of paper that was a résumé and I don't know how that got there. Obviously I either had it done, but I don't know why I had it done, since nobody asked for it. So that's the only thing that shows up in any type of résumé.
MT: That résumé that ended up in your file at Georgia Tech, you didn't write it or type it yourself?
GO: No, I can't type. I'm awful at that. Obviously someone did, but more important it was taken more out of what was in the press guide already.
MT: You had both the football situation and the Masters, the basic question everyone comes back to, and you rehash yourself, Why did you lie about those two things?
GO: Really at that time to puff my bio. It really didn't matter because I had the job, it was insignificant as far as why people hired me. How that appeared in my Masters at Georgia Tech was probably by word of mouth in 1987 from myself. It was something I should have cleaned up, Mike, there's no question about that. In my mind it had no significance to what I was being hired for. Not one thing I put down on paper ever got me a job. I mean, not one time did I ever turn in a résumé, not one time did I ever use that stuff to advance me, I already had the jobs. There were just things that just trailed with me in a bio that; My mistake is I should have gotten rid of them. I should have done the right thing. I basically didn't do it.
MT: So, in the back of your mind, as you are discussing issues with them that might come up, the Notre Dame job which takes on a life of its own, you are not thinking in the back of your head, ‘I got to tell them something about New Hampshire or NYU'?
GO: No, because it's never been a factor in any conversation I had with anybody, with any Athletic Director, administrator. It's something that probably at one time I realized something was going to have to be done. It was immaterial to me at the time because it wasn't why I was sitting in that room interviewing for a job.
MT: When did you first get wind that something might be up regarding your playing background?
GO: Wednesday night (Dec. 12), the SID (Sports Information Director John Heisler) came to me and said ‘Coach, I'm getting a call from somebody in Manchester (NH) about your background in New Hampshire. It's no big deal,' he says, ‘We'll work through it.' Then that Thursday, I was recruiting in Washington and I got a call that AP (Associated Press) had something on it, not playing at New Hampshire, and I went through that with the fellow who called me, Lou Nanni (Notre Dame spokesperson), and I said ‘That's right.' They had prepared, I guess, a release on it. At that time he had asked, ‘Is there anything else?' I said, ‘Yes, there is. There's a Masters in there. I have a Bachelor's plus so many hours.' That's the way I filled out the application at Notre Dame, the Bachelor's plus so many hours.
MT: So the application you filled out at Notre Dame did not say Masters at NYU?
GO: No, in fact I didn't fill it out until Wednesday after I took the job on Sunday.
MT: Now the phone call comes when you are in Washington and now, as with Notre Dame situation, the media cycle spins really fast. When did you realize that your job was in trouble?
GO: I got a call from the Athletic Director Kevin White and he went over things, saying basically the credibility as far as the efficiency that you have to be able to do this job with, it was major damage with the credibility and honesty that took place. At that time I told Kevin, I said ‘Kevin, listen the first thing I don't want to do is embarrass Notre Dame, the credibility of Notre Dame, and the job he has done in trying to secure a coach. If there is something that can't be controlled I will tender my resignation.' And he said, ‘I'll get back to you in 10 minutes.' When he called in 10 minutes I had a pretty good idea there was a problem.
MT: In your terms, did they force you to resign or did you resign?
GO: I was asked for my resignation, which I wasn't going to fight that. Kevin was very sick over it, and we didn't spend much time on the phone discussing it. I don't hold any animosity toward Notre Dame at all. They did what they had to do, based on the facts they had, based on the facts that I had some untruths in my bio.
MT: Your son, who is part of the current Georgia Tech football team, and he's had an odd-year plus of Dad's the head coach, but I'm one of the teammates. Now he's got this to deal with. How's he doing?
GO: Probably the best news I heard over the past week was when my other son told me there's a little column saying that Marty was walking around with his head up, practicing hard, and just being what I thought he would be. That's when I sort of picked myself up a little bit.
MT: Coaches have their record, coaches have their respect. You'll always have your record. You were Coach of the Year last year, nationally. Can you get the respect back, ever.
GO: I think so. I think coaches are always judged by what they do on the field, what they do with their program, what they do with their players. I don't think you'll ever live this done. They'll always be you know him, but. But I'm very proud of the fact that whatever I've done, I've done with sincerity and integrity as far as the coaching of any football team is concerned. I can't control yesterday or tomorrow, but I can control today and that's what I'm trying to do.
MT: Can you coach again?
GO: I need to coach again. I don't know when. I'm not one to sit around and say poor, old me. I think I made a mistake, a mistake I'm paying very dearly for. But I need to coach and I think that's the way I want to leave my legacy.
(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes and can be reached at email@example.com)