|Friday, December 14
Updated: December 15, 3:02 PM ET
Academic, athletic irregularities force resignation
ESPN.com news services
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- George O'Leary has resigned as Notre Dame's football coach after problems with claims disputing both his academic and athletic background were uncovered.
ESPN.com's Tom Farrey has learned that, according to New York University, O'Leary never earned a master of science degree in education from the school, as claimed in this year's Georgia Tech football media guide. An assistant registrar at NYU as well as a clerk said that O'Leary attended the school of education for two semesters from Sept. 1970 to June 1971, taking one course each semester, but never completed his degree.
Jack Reale, O'Leary's attorney, confirmed to ESPN.com that O'Leary never received a master's degree. Reale said O'Leary told him that he had acquired his teaching certificate, but completed only 39 hours toward his master's degree.
Asked if it's fair to say O'Leary lied about his academic credentials, Reale said: "I would say he didn't complete his master's degree.
"On one hand, it's a niggling matter. On the other hand, it's not," Reale said. "It is what it is. And it's unfortunate."
O'Leary's first coaching job was with Central Islip High School from 1968-76. He was an assistant coach until 1975, when he was named head coach. He moved on to Syracuse University in 1980 as an assistant coach.
"He did what he did when he was looking for a coaching job as a young guy with a family," Reale said. "He never finished his master's."
O'Leary said he regretted not telling Notre Dame officials about the inaccuracies before he was hired.
"Many years ago, as a young married father, I sought to pursue my dream as a football coach," he said. "In seeking employment I prepared a resume that contained inaccuracies regarding my completion of course work for a master's degree and also my level of participation in football at my alma mater. These misstatement were never stricken from my resume or biographical sketch in later years."
Two courses at NYU does not amount to 39 hours. Reale said O'Leary did not tell him where he acquired those postgraduate hours, but that he was "quite adamant about the number of hours he did finish."
On the bio that O'Leary filled out when he took the job at Syracuse in 1980, under the category of postgraduate education, he wrote that he went to "NYU -- Stony Brook University." He supplied no other information on the form, and does not make clear whether he is referring to one school or two.
There is no school called "N.Y.U. -- Stony Brook." There is a State University of New York (SUNY) campus in Stony Brook. A clerk in the registrar's office said a check of the school's records shows O'Leary attended only three graduate courses in the education school -- one each in fall 1971, spring 1972 and spring 1973.
O'Leary has said that he graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1968. School officials confirmed to ESPN.com that O'Leary in fact did get bachelors of science degree in Physical Education from that university, although technically the degree was granted in 1969 due to the fall '68 semester concluding in early January.
Thursday, it was reported that O'Leary overstated his playing career at the University of New Hampshire.
"Due to a selfish and thoughtless act many years ago, I have personally embarrassed Notre Dame, its alumni and fans," O'Leary said in a statement released by the school Friday. The statement offered no specifics as to the act.
O'Leary never earned a letter playing football at New Hampshire even though his biography says he earned three. In fact, he never played in a game.
"The integrity and credibility of Notre Dame is impeccable, and with that in mind, I will resign my position as head football coach effective Dec. 13, 2001."
Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White released a statement Friday morning:
"George has acknowledged inaccuracies in his biographical materials, including his academic background," White's statement said. "I understand that these inaccuracies represent a very human failing; nonetheless, they constitute a breach of trust that makes it impossible for us to go forward with our relationship," White said.
The search for a new coach will begin immediately, White said. With recruiting entering a dead period from Monday through Jan. 3, there is no longer the same sense of urgency to hire a coach than there was two weeks ago.
Georgia Tech athletics director Dave Braine released a statement: "We are saddened by the news of the resignation of George O'Leary as head coach at Notre Dame. We have the utmost respect for George and the job he did elevating our football program to one of national prominence, and we wish him the best. Meanwhile, we'll continue on our present course with our preparations for the Seattle Bowl under our interim head coach, Mac McWhorter, and we will continue our search for a new head coach. Coach O'Leary's resignation from Notre Dame has no effect on his relationship with Georgia Tech."
Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday was stunned by the news.
"It's a big shock," he said in an interview with Sporting News radio on Friday. "I never knew anything could happen like this before (We've) just got to keep going on and find a new coach in a hurry ... try to get things going."
"I can't understand how you could go all those years and not catch or correct it," former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian said.
O'Leary, who left Georgia Tech on Sunday to become coach of the Irish, is listed in his biography in the Georgia Tech media guide as a three-time letter-winner at New Hampshire at offensive line and fullback. It also was included in a biography handed out by Notre Dame after his hiring to replace Bob Davie was announced Sunday.
But O'Leary went to New Hampshire only for two years, and never made it into a game.
O'Leary transferred to New Hampshire after two years at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. He said he was on the New Hampshire team in 1967 and 1968, but was unable to play his first year because of mononucleosis, and did not play his second year because of a knee injury.
"It sounds like at some point somebody in our (sports information) business put that in there and it wasn't right. Who knows why?" John Heisler, Notre Dame's associate athletic director, said Thursday. "There was no intent to deceive anyone here. Somewhere along the line someone made a mistake."
Though O'Leary has said he was not sure how the information got into his biography, a document obtained by The Union Leader of Manchester indicates he listed the information when hired as a coach at Syracuse University in 1980.
According to the school's sports information department, coaches and athletes personally filled out the biographical forms. The newspaper reported Friday that O'Leary's documents lists "Univ. of New Hampshire -- 3 yr. lettered" as part of his athletic background.
The sports information department at New Hampshire said it has no record of O'Leary on a football roster, and that it does not keep records of letter winners.
O'Leary is listed as a 1968 graduate of New Hampshire with a degree in physical education.
Information from the Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Tom Farrey is included in this report