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UCF locks up O'Leary with 10-year extension

Contract worth $1 million yearly with up to $500,000 in annual incentives

Published: Sunday, May 28, 2006

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 17:02

There are only so many quips that can be made about George O'Leary and the chain of events that led to his departure at Notre Dame and arrival at UCF before the issue at hand comes to the surface.

And with O'Leary, 59, signing a 10-year contract extension with the Golden Knights on Thursday, the jokes are beginning to stop, eyes are beginning to open and the nation is realizing something.

The UCF football program is for real.

"It is with great enthusiasm that we announce this new contract with our head football coach George O'Leary," new UCF Athletic Director Keith Tribble said. "His commitment and dedication to UCF athletics is without question. Last season's momentous turnaround and accomplishment demonstrated to us why he is one of the top football coaches in the nation. We are excited to continue building our legacy with him."

That legacy includes the opening of an on-campus stadium next year and the defense of a division championship beginning in September. The extension of O'Leary's contract through 2015 is another huge step toward legitimacy for a school that seemingly spent years chasing it.

"I am very happy to sign on at UCF for the future years, and hopefully we can continue to grow both on the football field and academically in the classroom," O'Leary said.

The growth came in a huge spurt last season, when the Knights brushed off a 0-2 start to finish 8-3 in the regular season, winning the Conference USA East Division and hosting the inaugural C-USA Championship Game. Losses to Tulsa in that game and Nevada in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl have done little to temper expectations for this coming season. UCF has already been pegged to repeat as C-USA East Division Champions by Sporting News.

UCF President John Hitt said that the process of the extension began while former athletic director Steve Orsini was still with the school, and that the goals extended beyond the good of the university and O'Leary.

"That's very important, I think, from the standpoint that everyone understanding the mutual commitment we have and I would say from the standpoint of recruiting, because every young man, as he thinks about his football career in a Division I-A football program, has to be concerned about, 'Well, who am I going to play for, who is going to be the coach?'," Hitt said.

"There's no question this will help regarding recruiting, it helps the consistency of a program," O'Leary said.

The team wrapped up spring practices last month and will continue preparations for the season, which begins on September 2 at the Citrus Bowl against Division I-AA opponent Villanova.

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