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UCF's George O'Leary addresses retirement report, succession plan

George O'Leary says he has no plans to retire, but admits five more years might be too long. (USATSI)
George O'Leary says he has no plans to retire, but admits five more years might be too long. (USATSI)

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George O'Leary has no immediate plans to retire but says he'd like to see assistant coach Brent Key get a chance to replace him one day, the UCF coach told CBSSports.com on Sunday.

Fox Sports reported O'Leary is strongly considering retiring as early as after the season opener in Ireland against Penn State. Key, the team's assistant head coach of offense and offensive line coach, would be in line to replace him, according to the report.

Pressed about a timetable for retirement and whether this year is his last, O'Leary said he has no such timetable but admits five more years might be too long.

"I'm not going to be 72 coaching, but I'm not going to start a season and not finish what I do," said O'Leary, who turns 68 on Aug. 17. "I preach to the kids I don't quit."

O'Leary said he has spoken to Key about a potential handoff but that would be athletic director Todd Stansbury's decision. A UCF spokesman said Saturday night that Stansbury has had no discussions about O'Leary's timetable or alternative coaching candidates.

CBS reported in May that O'Leary and UCF reworked his contract to pay him $2-plus million annually, and O'Leary intimated he'd like to see at least a healthy portion of that contract through. The deal goes to 2017.

Key has been with UCF for 10 seasons and has garnered interest from Florida, Alabama and USC for past assistant coaching positions.

"Whenever I do go, I'd like to see (Key) being shown consideration," O'Leary said. "But we haven't done anything that way. I haven't spoken to the AD on that stuff. My recommendation would be to not fix what's not broken. If it's broken, that's different. So you've got to win. It's not my decision. It's the AD's decision."

O'Leary is overseeing a four-man race to replace Blake Bortles, who quarterbacked the Knights to a Fiesta Bowl win and a 12-win season.

Last year's backup Justin Holman and Boise transfer Nick Patti are among the competitors. O'Leary says he's in no rush to pick.

My take: Moving on from UCF after one Ireland game seems unlikely, but the fact O'Leary acknowledges he wants Key considered and doesn't want to coach past 72 means he's given post-coaching plans some serious thought.

And what else was he going to say, 'I'm leaving in one month or four months!' Rules No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in coaching: Always preserve recruiting.

The internal politics will be fascinating to track because while O'Leary might want his guy to take over, UCF has mushroomed into a considerable job. The AD might be thinking he can find the next Charlie Strong on the market. Keeping Key, however, would be a smooth handoff and would keep a good formula intact.

The Knights will have difficult decisions to make in the next few years.


Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with CBSSports.com. Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.
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