UCF’s George O’Leary is about as old school a coach as you’ll find in college football, but sometimes the 67-year-old tends to take his traditional approach to the game a little too far.
For example O’Leary went on a rant Tuesday during his radio show on 740 The Game in Orlando, Fla., the point of which was to express frustration over the toughness of today’s crop of athletes. Here’s a transcript of his statements, via CoachingSearch.com:
“There is no question the kids today are softer than kids in the past, in my mind. I think it comes from too much parental babying. I think that’s why it takes kids a little bit longer to play. The game is about contact. You can try to hide it any way you want, but you got to hit people whether you blocking or tackling.”
O’Leary continued, “I always talk about contact speed. Even when you watch the NFL, a lot of those guys run 4.5 but they hit you at 4.9. You can’t win with those guys. All you got to do when you’re watching TV is watch the back leg, whether they’re blocking or tackling, and see if it comes through. You can’t play that way. We got a bunch of them that almost break their hip trying to put the brakes on before they hit someone. You can’t win that way. I’m always looking at contact speed in a football team whether it’s offensively or defensively. That’s what wins games.
“I think kids have so many other things going with themselves with peer pressure and before, 10 or 15 years ago, there wasn’t that much going on in my opinion. Now, they have all these shows and stuff. It’s just ridiculous, the reality show. You can’t watch TV now. It’s all stuff that really doesn’t matter.”
To be sure, there are countless fans who lament the “wussification” of football who would agree wholeheartedly that the sport isn’t as tough as it used to be. And there are some coaches with a reputation for toughness who might be more qualified to make that statement than others.
When a jury finds an athletic department negligent in a player’s death, in part because the coach was said to have berated that player when he lagged behind during conditioning drills — and in part because the player had a sickle cell trait that coaches and trainers were reportedly aware of — that coach loses his right to criticize anyone for not being tough enough.
O’Leary came to Orlando in 2004 with a reputation that preceded him as a result of the Notre Dame resume scandal, and then the Ereck Plancher death in 2008, the 2011 trial and UCF’s unrelated NCAA sanctions in 2012 only added to the perception of O’Leary as a coach who’s out of touch.
Over the last nine seasons, UCF fans have long grown tired of O’Leary’s anachronistic style as both a coach and a leader, and only recently has the program started winning often enough to offset that frustration.
But comments like these, which call into question whether overprotective parents — and reality shows? — are making players less tough are bound to reignite the discussion of whether O’Leary is the right guy to be leading the Knights program.