Giger: O’Brien better off he didn’t get to go to Notre Dame with O’Leary
George O’Leary suffered embarrassing consequences from lying on his resume, but truth be told, the fallout might have been the best thing that happened to Bill O’Brien’s career.
And ultimately, more than a decade later, to Penn State.
One of the big story lines for this week’s game against Central Florida will be O’Brien going up against his mentor, O’Leary, the head coach at Georgia Tech when O’Brien was on the staff there beginning in 1995.
O’Leary not only made O’Brien his offensive coordinator with the Yellow Jackets in 2001, he thought so much of him that he was bringing him along in the same position when he got the head coaching job at Notre Dame in December of that year.
That plan lasted all of five days, when O’Leary was forced to resign after it was discovered his resume included lies about key parts of his background.
O’Leary claimed he played football and earned three letters at New Hampshire. He actually never played in a game.
He also claimed to have earned a master’s degree from New York University. False.
“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 back then.
The transgressions weren’t earth shattering, but Notre Dame was humiliated and had no choice but to cut O’Leary loose.
That also meant O’Brien’s opportunity to become the Fighting Irish’s offensive coordinator vanished.
No one could know for sure how things would have turned out in O’Brien’s career had he gone to South Bend. But given how much trouble the Fighting Irish have had since then — until last year’s resurgence — it’s safe to speculate that O’Brien’s time at Notre Dame would have taken him down a path that would have prevented him from reaching the heights he’s currently at.
O’Brien is one of the hottest coaching names in the country, and whether he takes one or not, numerous NFL opportunities should be coming his way in the next few years.
Had he gone to Notre Dame and the program failed to meet the fan base’s incredibly high expectations, he and O’Leary would have been fired at some point. O’Brien would have been just another college offensive coordinator, not to mention one who probably would have missed out altogether on the invaluable experience he gained with the New England Patriots.
All of this is speculation, of course, but the years he spent with the Patriots and knowledge he gained under Bill Belichick are what helped O’Brien become the offensive guru he is today.
That time with the Patriots, more than anything else on his resume, is what earned O’Brien his job at Penn State. And his work at Penn State is what has made him a household name in the coaching ranks.
O’Brien and O’Leary, who took over at Central Florida in 2004, remain good friends, and the Penn State coach still holds his mentor in very high regard. It’s no coincidence, with the coaches’ friendship, that the two schools were able to work out an arrangement to play next season in Ireland.
“Coach O’Leary has done a fantastic job at UCF, and obviously he has meant a lot to my career,” O’Brien said when that overseas game was announced.
It’s a shame what happened to O’Leary, who by all accounts is a good man and good coach. He’s done an excellent job at Central Florida, a program that went 0-11 his first year but has won 10 or more games three times in the past six years.
Many people fib on their resumes, trying to make themselves look a little better, but anyone who does that runs the risk of getting embarrassed if an employer does its due diligence in verifying the information.
O’Leary got caught lying in very public fashion. And while it didn’t prevent him from getting a shot as the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator and then at Central Florida, the resume blunder did prevent him from ever again being considered one of the nation’s top coaching commodities.
Which is exactly what O’Brien is today — ironically, you might say, because of a job at Notre Dame that’s not on his resume.
Follow Giger on Twitter @CoryGiger