George O’Leary retires from coaching after 12 years at UCF

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Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

George O'Leary went 81-68 during his 12 years as UCF's head coach and led the team to a win in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.

ORLANDO — George O’Leary is retiring as head coach of UCF’s football program, effective immediately as announced by the university on Sunday.

O’Leary was 81-68 during his 12 seasons coaching the Knights including the 2013 season where UCF went 12-1 and won the 2014 Fiesta Bowl over Baylor marking one of the biggest wins in program history in their first year in the American Athletic Conference.

In the first two years of the American conference O’Leary lead UCF to at least a share of the title in both seasons.

“The American Athletic Conference will always owe a debt of gratitude to George O’Leary, who helped our conference gain immediate credibility with UCF’s Fiesta Bowl championship in our first year.” said conference commissioner Mike Areso in a statement.

Overall O’Leary led the Knights to all four of their conference championships since UCF joined the FBS and went 133-101 in his 19 years as a head coach. But one of O’Leary’s biggest successes has been his graduation rate, which is always among the highest in the conference.

“I have tremendous professional and personal respect for George and all he has done for UCF,” said UCF president John C. Hitt in a release. “We’ve been successful in the classroom and on the field under his watch, and his achievements have helped build the bonds that unite Knights everywhere.”

UCF made it to seven bowl games under O’Leary including three in a row from 2012 to 2014 a streak that was broken last week when the Knights fell to 0-7 after a loss to Temple, making taking UCF out of bowl eligibility and guaranteeing the first losing season for the program since 2011.

Quarterbacks coach Danny Barrett will take over as interim head coach for the final four games of the season and then the university will start a search for a head coach for the 2016 season once an athletic director is hired. UCF anticipates hiring a new athletic director by December.

Below is George O’Leary’s full statement announcing his retirement.

“In recent weeks there has been much speculation about the head coaching position at UCF and my future plans. Hopefully this statement clarifies the facts.

“After the 2013 championship season and Fiesta Bowl win I expressed my intention to retire at that time. After significant discussion with the UCF administration, I reconsidered and agreed to coach two additional seasons, 2014 and 2015. The administration has always been aware of my plan to retire after this season.

“2014 was a rewarding season which culminated in our second consecutive AAC championship and third conference championship in five seasons. 2015, however, has been a disappointment to me and many despite the hard work of our coaches and players. Many of the players are young but gaining valuable playing experience due to injuries and graduation. I am sure this will benefit them next season.

“In an effort to allow UCF to accelerate its search for my successor and clarify the facts regarding my future plans, I am retiring effective immediately.

“I appreciate the opportunity afforded me by John Hitt and Steve Orsini to come to UCF to build a program and the fine facilities we now have here. I am especially proud of our four conference championships and two additional championship appearances in the last 10 years along with seven bowl appearances and 31 wins in the three previous seasons.

“I again want to thank my coaches, players and loyal supporters for their efforts on this journey from the MAC to the AAC. Godspeed and go Knights.”