Central Florida head coach George O'Leary caught the attention of the college football world Tuesday night after airing complaints about today's players being softer than in the past.
During his radio show on 740 The Game, O'Leary referenced the decreased workloads college teams have implemented as an explanation for players being "softer," as well as why he sees tackling and blocking in the NFL today as "so poor." Via Coaching Search:
"There is no question the kids today are softer than kids in the past, in my mind," O'Leary said. "I think it comes from too much parental babying. I think that's why it takes kids a little bit longer to play. The game is about contact. You can try to hide it any way you want, but you got to hit people whether you blocking or tackling.
"I always talk about contact speed," O'Leary continued. "Even when you watch the NFL, a lot of those guys run 4.5 but they hit you at 4.9. You can't win with those guys. All you got to do when you're watching TV is watch the back leg, whether they're blocking or tackling, and see if it comes through. You can't play that way."
O'Leary's comments were quickly met with criticism, as the Knights' head coach was once named in a wrongful death suit after one of his players, Ereck Plancher, died following conditioning drills in March 2008. Plancher, who had a sickle-cell trait that UCF coaches and trainers reportedly knew could cause health problems, collapsed shortly after the workout and was transported to a nearby hospital, where he passed away one hour later.
According to an Orlando Sentinel story from June 2011, former players described the session as one of the "toughest" they encountered at UCF. The players also claimed O'Leary berated Plancher for collapsing during sprints at the end of the workout. O'Leary, however, later termed the workouts as "non-taxing."
The UCF Athletics Association was eventually found guilty of negligence in the 2011 suit, though O'Leary remained head coach. The jury awarded each of Plancher's parents $5 million.
O'Leary is entering his 10th year at UCF, where he holds a 60-55 record. He was hired in 2004 to replace Mike Kruczek after a stint as the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator from 2002-04, and was the head coach at Notre Dame in 2001 and Georgia Tech from 1994-2001.
The Knights open their 2013 season Thursday vs. Akron.