No shortcuts to BCS success at UCF

January, 1, 2014
1/01/14
10:38
AM ET


George O'Leary has brought No. 15 UCF to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, arriving at the BCS party just as the band is breaking down and the barkeep is cleaning up. But O'Leary's career has been a case study in living one step out of the spotlight.

"You know what's funny about the whole thing?" O'Leary said. "We've won 10 games three out of the last four years. And nobody knew it. All of a sudden, we won 11, and because of the BCS, everybody sees it."

As the sweet old ladies in his New York City parish used to say, the map of Ireland is on O'Leary's face. The 67-year-old coach has that Big Apple mixture of romanticism wrapped in a cynical crust. His favorite tool is the needle. He has a million bits of Irish wisdom, aphorisms and toasts, nearly all of which his players hear over the span of their careers.

Put team before self. Don't ask for your name on your jersey. "It has your number on it," O'Leary tells them. "If you're any good, they'll know who you are."

Don't take shortcuts. "Don't learn the tricks of the trade," he has said. "Learn the trade."

What's funny about the whole thing is that a dozen years after he fell off the top of the mountain -- because he took a shortcut -- O'Leary has reached the top again.

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Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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