UCF plans to honor former coach George O’Leary with a statue on campus.
The Orlando Sentinel first reported that a group of private donors came up with the idea to build the statue, set to be presented in 2017 near Bright House Networks Stadium. The UCF Athletics Association approved the plan, according to The Sentinel.
“George helped our student-athletes reach new heights in the classroom and on the field. It’s appropriate to recognize those achievements at some point in the future,” UCF spokesman Grant Heston said in a statement to ESPN.com.
O’Leary, 70, retired last October during his 12th season as UCF head coach. He took the Knights to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor following the 2013 season and went to seven bowl games, going 81-68 overall. He helped spearhead the construction of the on-campus stadium where the Knights currently play.
But he also went winless twice with UCF (2004, 2015) and was head coach when Ereck Plancher collapsed and died during offseason conditioning drills in 2008. O’Leary and his staff oversaw the drills.
A jury found the UCF Athletics Association negligent in Plancher’s death and awarded his family $10 million in damages. But the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2015 the UCFAA was required to pay the Plancher family only $200,000 because it was a state agency and therefore limited to a cap on damages.
“Those people can build all the statues to whomever they want, but the one statue that should be there that they forgot about is a young student-athlete that died for their football program, that they abandoned and betrayed,” Plancher family attorney Steve Yerrid said in a phone interview.
O’Leary arrived at UCF in 2004, three years after he resigned in disgrace from Notre Dame for inaccuracies on his résumé.