Just when we thought that Mark Richt’s appearance in the now-infamous “Party in the UGA” orientation video was the shakiest promotional decision by a coach this summer, along comes George O’Leary, who used to work at Georgia Tech and who might not be working at Central Florida much longer if he doesn’t get smarter fast.
You’ll recall that O’Leary came under scrutiny after UCF receiver Ereck Plancher died after a weight-lifting session in March 2008. You might also recall that O’Leary’s training methods were called into question while he was at Tech and lineman Dustin Vaitekunas was injured. You might also recall that O’Leary left the Institute in December 2001 and resigned as Notre Dame’s head coach five days later.
This latest tempest isn’t nearly so serious. It’s just silly.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, O’Leary gave permission to aXis magazine, an Orlando entertainment guide, to stage a photo shoot in his team’s locker room. Here’s O’Leary, as quoted by the Sentinel: “The guy called my office and basically wanted to know if they could do a magazine shoot. There was a UCF girl who had her MBA and all that.”
Turns out the UCF alumna was not photographed offering her views on supply-side economics. It just so happens that her name is Shanna Marie McLaughlin, and she was Miss July for the magazine founded by Hugh Hefner. The aXis photos capture her wearing, or almost wearing, Central Florida regalia. There’s also a video, and it is … well, you can see for yourself. (WARNING: Not suitable for viewing at work.)
O’Leary to the Sentinel: “Eh, it’s not what I expected, but I don’t think there’s anything outlandish on the thing. I never saw the video.”
The school itself saw it rather differently. Joe Hornstein, an associate athletics director, sent this statement via e-mail to the Sentinel:
An employee without proper authorization allowed access to our football locker room. By the time the video of the shoot was brought to our attention, it had already made its rounds via the Internet. Let me make this clear, UCF does not condone the photos and the video. We have spoken to the employee in question and we will speak to our entire staff to make sure that this does not happen again. To any fans who were offended by this, we sincerely apologize.
Ten years ago George O’Leary had beaten Georgia three times running and was the most beloved Tech coach since Bobby Dodd. Not much has gone right for him since. And it’s never a good sign when a higher-up refers to you as “the employee in question.”
But, on the bright side, Central Florida did build an on-campus palace for O’Leary’s Knights — Bright House Networks Stadium opened in 2007 — and from what I can tell the locker room looks nice enough. So he’s got ambiance going for him.