Originally created 12/14/01

O'Leary did nothing to merit such a sendoff



The solunar tables provided no clue, and the game management guidelines don't list it with the various hunting schedules for deer, turkey or grouse. Evidence, however, clearly shows that open season on George O'Leary began in earnest Sunday.

By all indication, the bashing of Georgia Tech's former football coach will continue unabated until Notre Dame qualifies for a BCS bowl or any Yellow Jacket successor restores the Bill Lewis-like tarnish to the refurbished facilities on Bobby Dodd Way.

Doesn't anyone have anything nice to say about the coach who rebuilt the Ramblin' Wreckage of his predecessor into a fairly well-tuned program that is considered among the elite of the ACC? A man who led the Jackets to as many winning seasons (six) in seven years as the previous three Georgia Tech coaches combined did in 15?

When did O'Leary become synonymous with cancer?

The blood bath of black ink trailed from Orlando, Fla., to his new home of South Bend, Ind.

By hiring O'Leary, the Fighting Irish either "lowered their utopian standards" as the Orlando Sentinel opined or, as the Chicago Tribune put it, settled for their "73rd choice" just ahead of the guy who played "Coach" on the sitcom.

Nothing, however, compared to the venom that was spewed from every voice at the hometown Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which didn't even wait for O'Leary to pack his belongings before erecting a rail for him to leave town. No fewer than four columnists weighed in negatively on O'Leary from a front-page rip-job that claimed the "O" in O'Leary stands for overrated, to one shredding him for failing to live up to the legacy of Dodd to yet another that claimed O'Leary is the football version of Bobby Knight.

Were we all covering the same coach? What sins did O'Leary commit to draw such vicious criticism? He unconventionally punished a player, inherited a couple of recruiting classes that didn't show proper diligence in the classroom, closed football practices to the media, went 7-5 when only 12-0 would suffice and had a habit of growling at fools.

Suddenly, revisionist historians say O'Leary is a colorless ogre who can't coach - at least without the services of former offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen. Apparently, Friedgen's offensive genius would have helped the defense stop game-tying drives by Clemson and Maryland or had them more prepared to thwart Virginia's last-gasp trickery.

Excuse me, folks, but get a grip. Most coaches in the country close practices, including the very nice man up the road at Georgia. And since when were Bobby Ross or Frank Howard or Vince Lombardi regarded as warm and fuzzy? Paul "Bear" Bryant didn't get his nickname for his cuddly nature, by the way.

As for all the attacks on Georgia Tech's graduation rates that were recently released, O'Leary shouldn't shoulder the blame. The most recent numbers reflect the final two recruiting classes of Lewis in 1993 and '94. O'Leary's charges this season had 22 players make the dean's list and are on pace for graduation numbers more in line with the university at large.

In time, O'Leary's legacy at Georgia Tech will be more warmly remembered than the final strains of the 2001 season suggest. His last day in Atlanta O'Leary ducked the barbs and talked about leaving with "class and dignity."

Too bad he couldn't have been treated with the same in the end.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219.