So, what should George O’Leary’s legacy be?
It’s not an easy question to answer. How much do the faults in his personality, like a willingness to lie to get ahead personally while failing to treat his players’ cultures with respect, impact how we view him?
He was responsible for the death of someone in his care. How does that change how we should see his on-field success? He was a good football coach, who likely would have succeeded far beyond what Ty Willingham was able to accomplish as the head coach of the Notre Dame football program. He made UCF what it is today, with only a little assist in modernizing the offense from Scott Frost.
It’s also not like O’Leary didn’t care for his players. He just couldn’t see life for what it had become around him. He wanted to be an old-school tyrant coach on the field, and it cost Plancher his life. Still, his emphasis on student academics shows that he cared about developing young men.
Plenty of former players will advocate for him to this day, and plenty don’t.
Notre Dame football probably would have gotten better with O’Leary. They may also have had to reckon with major physical and cultural issues between him and the players. Those are two different things that need to be balanced. It’s also worth acknowledging that there are plenty of coaches who can succeed without creating major issues in their wake.
More than anything, O’Leary should be a warning in the next hiring cycle. Don’t bring in a coach whose morality is questionable.
The Notre Dame football team takes on USC after their bye week, but a familiar foe will not be on the sidelines for the Trojans in the 2021 matchup.
There is good that comes with everyone, but there is also bad in everyone. You need to know which is more impactful. If you just want to win games there are better options than the coaches who have already shown their colors. There are better coaches than Hugh Freeze, Urban Meyer, or anyone involved in the Baylor scandal. There are better coaches for who you don’t have to sell your soul.