New Notre Dame football coach quits; admits he lied about athletic background

Friday, December 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ George O'Leary has resigned as Notre Dame football coach less than a week after he was hired, admitting he lied about his background.

O'Leary, 55, never earned a letter playing football at New Hampshire even though his biography says he earned three. He never played in a game there, though he was on the team. He also didn't earn a master's degree from New York University, as the biography claimed, NYU said Friday.

``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 integrity and credibility of Notre Dame is impeccable and with that in mind, I will resign my position as head football coach,'' he said.

The resignation, which took effect Thursday, is one of the most embarrassing blows to the storied football program, famous for Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen and winning one ``for the Gipper.''

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said O'Leary acknowledged inaccuracies in his biographical data, ``including his academic background.''

The school did not elaborate. However, John Beckman, assistant vice president for public affairs at NYU, said that O'Leary was a student there but did not receive a master's in 1972, as he had claimed.

White called the inaccuracies ``a very human failing'' but said they ``constitute a breach of trust that makes it impossible for us to go forward with our relationship.''

The search for a new coach will begin immediately, White said. The Irish haven't finished in the Top 10 since 1993 and last won a national title in 1988.

O'Leary's appointment to replace Bob Davie was announced Sunday. In seven seasons at Georgia Tech, he had a 52-33 record and helped the team earn five straight bowl invitations for the first time since the 1950s.

O'Leary is listed in his biography in the Georgia Tech media guide as a three-time letter-winner at New Hampshire on the offensive line and at fullback. It also was included in a biography handed out by Notre Dame after his hiring was announced.

But O'Leary went to New Hampshire for only two years, transferring there after two years at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. He was on the New Hampshire team but now admits he never made it into a game, because of illness and a knee injury. He graduated from the school in 1968.

Though O'Leary had initially said he was not sure how the misinformation got into his biography, The Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., reported Friday that a document indicated O'Leary listed the information when hired as a coach at Syracuse University in 1980. The newspaper first revealed the discrepancies in O'Leary's background in a story published Thursday.

According to the Syracuse 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.''