Notre Dame Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Résumé Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

George O’Leary, former head football coach for the Georgia Institute of Technology, resigned as head football coach of the University of Notre Dame after only five days on the job. A reporter covering his appointment as Notre Dame’s head coach found inaccuracies and falsehoods on his résumé. Upon resigning, O’Leary admitted to including fabricated athletic and academic credentials on his résumé. His resignation, however, did not negatively affect his coaching career, which prospered nonetheless.

Summary of Event

In late 2001, after a turbulent five-season tenure, University of Notre Dame head football coach Bob Davie was asked to resign. On December 9, shortly after Davie’s departure, George O’Leary, then head football coach of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), was hired to replace Davie. Shortly after he accepted the prestigious position, questions began to surface about discrepancies on O’Leary’s résumé. [kw]Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Résumé, Notre Dame (Dec. 14, 2001) Football;college Notre Dame University;football O’Leary, George []Résumé falsification Coaches;football Hussey, John Football;college Notre Dame University;football O’Leary, George []Résumé falsification Coaches;football Hussey, John [g]United States;Dec. 14, 2001: Notre Dame Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Resume[03120] [c]Hoaxes, frauds, and charlatanism;Dec. 14, 2001: Notre Dame Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Résumé[03120] [c]Sports;Dec. 14, 2001: Notre Dame Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Résumé[03120] [c]Public morals;Dec. 14, 2001: Notre Dame Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Résumé[03120] [c]Ethics;Dec. 14, 2001: Notre Dame Football Coach Resigns for Falsifying His Résumé[03120] Fennell, Jim White, Kevin Nanni, Louis M. Malloy, Edward A.

O’Leary stated on his résumé that he earned a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He also claimed to have earned three athletic letters playing football at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Notre Dame officials requested that O’Leary resign as head coach after learning of his faked credentials—athletic and academic.

O’Leary began his football coaching career at Central Islip High School in New York in 1975. He continued as a high school football coach in New York until 1980, when he began coaching college football at Syracuse University. While at Syracuse, he served as the defensive-line coach and assistant head coach for six years. After he left Syracuse, he became the defensive-line coach for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League National Football League (NFL).

In 1994, O’Leary accepted the head coaching position at Georgia Tech. During his eight seasons there, he led the Yellow Jackets to a 52-33 record, which included a five-year run in bowl appearances beginning in 1997. In 1998 and 2000, he was recognized as Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2000, he was honored with the Bobby Dodd Award as national coach of the year. Before leaving for Notre Dame, O’Leary was considered one of Georgia Tech’s most prominent and successful coaches. However, he also had a few problems while coaching at Georgia. In 1999, the National Collegiate Athletic National Collegiate Athletic Association;football Association (NCAA) sanctioned him for improperly lending money to a former Georgia running back. It was also later revealed that Georgia used eleven ineligible football players between the 1998-1999 and 2004-2005 seasons.

Hearing of Notre Dame’s decision to hire O’Leary, John Hussey, a sportswriter for the Manchester, New Hampshire, Union Leader, began his research for a report on O’Leary’s accomplishment for the local newspaper. Hussey read O’Leary’s résumé, in which the coach claimed to have played football at UNH, and interviewed O’Leary’s former coach and teammates from UNH, neither of whom could recall O’Leary playing in a single game for the Wildcats. Upon further investigation, Hussey found that the coach did not play sports at UNH, and he certainly did not earn three letters in football.

Hussey reported his findings to Jim Fennell, another reporter for the Union Leader, who broke the story nationwide. On December 12, administrative officials from Notre Dame approached O’Leary regarding his claim to have received three letters in football at UNH. When questioned, O’Leary admitted to including false information about his early athletic career. Feeling shamed and embarrassed, he offered to immediately resign as the head football coach. Notre Dame officials, however, refused to accept his resignation. The vice president of university relations, Louis M. Nanni, and athletic director Kevin White agreed to overlook the misleading credentials and work with O’Leary to prepare a public apology.

The next day, however, more questions surfaced about O’Leary’s résumé, this time concerning his academic background at Stony Brook. Notre Dame officials discovered that O’Leary had completed only two classes during his two semesters at Stony Brook. O’Leary later admitted that he had never earned his master’s degree there. Nanni and White met with Notre Dame president Edward A. Malloy and decided that they could no longer allow O’Leary to continue as their head football coach. Without having coached a single game, O’Leary was asked to resign. He presented his formal resignation on December 14, only five days into the job, saying in a statement released by the university, “Due to a selfish and thoughtless act many years ago, I have personally embarrassed Notre Dame, its alumni and fans.”


The résumé scandal at Notre Dame did not negatively affect O’Leary’s coaching career. Indeed, his career prospered. In 2002, he was hired as the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. After spending two years coaching Minnesota, O’Leary left the Vikings and accepted the head coaching position at the University of Central Florida (UCF). During his career as the Knights’ head coach, O’Leary raised the expectations for the football team and was credited with increasing his players’ athletic and academic performances. In 2005, O’Leary was recognized as the Conference USA Coach of the Year and he also signed a new multiple-year contract with UCF.

Notre Dame’s termination of O’Leary was one in a series of high-profile firings of college coaches for actual or perceived misconduct. In September, 2000, Bobby Knight, Bobby Knight, the head coach of the men’s basketball Basketball;college team at Indiana University, was fired for a sequence of unacceptable actions that included allegations of choking a player. In March, 2003, Jim Harrick, Jim, Sr. Harrick, head men’s basketball coach at the University of University of Georgia;basketball Georgia, resigned under pressure after accusations surfaced that athletes received credit for classes they did not attend. Also, in May, 2003, Eustachy, Larry Larry Eustachy, head men’s basketball coach at Iowa State University, was forced to resign after he was seen in photographs drinking alcohol with students, as well as kissing female students. Football;college Notre Dame University;football O’Leary, George []Résumé falsification Coaches;football Hussey, John

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Callahan, David. The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, 2004. This book discusses why people choose to cheat to gain an advantage over their competitors. It also devotes a chapter about résumé padding, and discusses the Notre Dame résumé scandal involving George O’Leary.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Keyes, Ralph. The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004. Examines why individuals falsify information, and discusses the George O’Leary scandal in the chapter “Great Pretenders.”
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kidwell, Roland E., Jr.“’Small’ Lies, Big Trouble: The Unfortunate Consequences of Résumé Padding, from Janet Cooke to George O’Leary.” Journal of Business Ethics 51, no. 2 (2004): 175-184. A historical study of the effects of including inaccurate information on résumés. Also addresses the George O’Leary scandal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mandel, Stewart. Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign over College Football. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. This book provides a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at notorious university scandals involving athletics, including the O’Leary scandal at Notre Dame.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Staurowsky, Ellen J. “Piercing the Veil of Amateurism: Commercialization, Corruption, and U.S. College Sports.” In The Commercialization of Sport, edited by Trevor Slack. New York: Routledge, 2004. Staurowsky discusses how amateur athletics in the United States has become a commercialized and corrupt spectacle.

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Categories: History