TAMPA — Central Florida coach George O'Leary stopped in Tampa last week, meeting with area Knights boosters at the Rusty Pelican restaurant. He took a moment to answer a few questions about his team's outlook for next season and beyond as UCF moves into the Big East.
UCF finished 5-7 last season, with a long pattern of close losses late. Six losses came by seven points or fewer — it was tied in the fourth quarter of two losses and led in the fourth in three others, including a one-point loss to Southern Miss on a failed two-point conversion on the final play.
We fell short in some games in the fourth quarter, where you either win or lose if you stop them or score. Our kids understand we didn't do as well as we would have liked last year. Obviously our goal is to win the conference championship every year, so we've got to get back to that. We have a lot of players back, so optimism is there. The nonconference schedule, with Ohio State and Missouri, is something to look at. We finish up with Conference USA and head to the Big East the following year.
You only have a few players from the bay area, such as Largo's Brynn Harvey. Knowing you'll play USF every year and in Tampa every other year, do you expect to recruit the area more?
We're all over the place. We recruit the state, every area. Kirk Callahan has this area, and his dad (Sean) is the coach at Armwood. Hopefully we have some inroads there. He's over here. He has Tampa down through Naples and into Miami. He's being well-received. We spend most of our time in Miami, Broward, over on that end. I think we'll have our draw as far as who we can get.
You're still a year from joining the Big East, but did it mean a lot to hear about commissioner John Marinatto resigning?
I was surprised. I think John got caught in the middle there somewhere. As (former commissioner Mike) Tranghese said, he's the guy who had the plan to save them to begin with. A lot of things took place, and obviously the commissioner gets the back end of it all the time. When they finalize the East and West (divisions), I'll be interested in who's headed to the West, if they don't get Air Force. It's going to really be a neat conference. It hurts to lose Pittsburgh and Syracuse, but I think they're bringing in some pretty good football teams.
Is the geography of the league still awkward to you, or is that something you deal with in conferences today?
Once you get on a plane, we go to UTEP now. Another hour, and you're in San Diego.