UCF Football’s Top Five Questions for 2014: Is This It for George O’Leary?

Here’s a peek behind the curtain: I admit that, when I planned this series of articles previewing the UCF football team a few weeks ago, I really did have this question about George O’Leary in mind as the last topic. Trust me.

Then all this happened. Thanks for stealing my thunder, Bruce Feldman.

So anyway, here’s an updated look at the last of our five questions facing UCF Football in 2014:

5. Is this season it for George O’Leary?

Think about it. Wouldn’t this have been a heck of a way to finish your coaching career:

Ten years. 0-11 in the MAC to Fiesta Bowl Champions. The school’s first three conference titles. The school’s first three bowl wins. Putting a previously cannon fodder program on the national football map.

Not a bad coda, right?

Not a chance.

George O’Leary is nothing if not loyal. Following the Fiesta Bowl, he signed a contract extension that will keep him employed through the 2017 season, combined with a nice raise to around a reported $2 million per year. So he has about eight-million reasons to stick around.

But he also turns 68 years old on August 17th. He has had a couple of health scares – the first of which came before he coached a single game at UCF. But O’Leary told the media last Sunday that reports of his impending retirement have been greatly exaggerated.

UCF George O'Leary
George O’Leary turns 68 on August 17th, and speculation regarding his retirement has already begun.

O’Leary’s response to the Orlando Sentinel on the report doesn’t mean he won’t hang it up if UCF has another outstanding season or two. O’Leary cannot coach forever, and when he does decide to leave, the mention of Brent Key’s name as his successor in Bruce Feldman’s article should rest recruits’ worries about who will be in charge for the long term.

Key, 36, has reportedly fended off offers from schools such as UAB, Florida and Alabama (the latter two as offensive line coach), ostensibly because he is in line to receive the keys to the kingdom. While this has not been made official, given Key’s relationship to O’Leary, there is little doubt at this point that he would be UCF’s next coach, despite O’Leary trying to tamp down those assumptions. But exactly when this transition would take place remains a mystery, and knowing how O’Leary does things, it will remain so for some time to come.

So for the moment, George O’Leary is the head football coach at UCF, and will remain there for the foreseeable future. However, a surprising 2014 – good or bad – could once again raise those pesky questions about when O’Leary will bow out.

Give the man credit: Not too many people had a ten-year plan to turn an 0-11 MAC team into 12-1 Fiesta Bowl champions.

In the meantime, Knight fans should not consider deleting the Fiesta Bowl from their DVRs just yet. Reaching those same heights in 2014 will require affirmative answers to most, if not all, of the questions we’ve presented to you in this series. The potential for growing pains will make 2013’s dream season a very tough act to follow.

Check out Questions 1-4 about the 2014 UCF Football Team here:

  1. Who’s the Quarterback?
  2. How good will the defense be under Tyson Summers?
  3. Can Will Stanback carry the load?
  4. Will the offensive line come together?