George O'Leary Thinks Practices Have Gone Soft, Should Tell That to Ereck Plancher's Parents

By Ty Duffy

The UCF athletic department’s liability in Ereck Plancher’s parents’ wrongful death suit was reduced from $10 million to $200,000 on appeal. With this weight lifted, George O’Leary felt free to fulminate about how football practices had gone soft, as noticed by Coaching

“In college, every day used to be doubles. Now, you have 29 practice opportunities. We go one a day. Most of these kids when it was 2-a-days, they would have struggled making it.

“There is no question the kids today are softer than kids in the past, in my mind. 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.”

Ereck Plancher died following a UCF football practice on March 18, 2008, from complications related to sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder that can leave players vulnerable during strenuous exercise. George O’Leary personally oversaw the workout. Players testifiedand told reporters O’Leary ordered trainers and water away from the workout. He also singled out and berated Plancher as he was “woozy and staggering” and fell during the obstacle course.

UCF’s athletic director described the workout, initially, as a “non-taxing” 10:26 workout. He later corrected himself. That was just the mat drills portion of a workout that also included 75 minutes of weight-lifting and an agility course.

Attorneys for UCF initially tried to claim Plancher died from an undiagnosed heart condition, a fact disputed by a medical examiner and experts. On appeal, UCF attorneys tried to argue Plancher signed a waiver, absolving the athletic department of any liability. That was dismissed. Eventually, attorneys scored with the claim that the UCFAA, an organization made private to avoid public scrutiny, was a state agency entitled to sovereign immunity. This reduced the UCFAA liability to $200,000 and protected it from having to pay legal fees.

But, yes, parental babying and lax workouts are a problem. In George O’Leary’s day, sickle cell anemia didn’t exist. Iowa players would have manned up in the face of muscle tissue breakdown and grave risk of acute kidney failure.

O’Leary was once forced to resign as Notre Dame head coach, after committing the “selfish and thoughtless” act of lying on his resumé. Being responsible for the athletic department being held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit is apparently no longer “selfish and thoughtless” enough.

Major college football long ago went soft, on sadism and common decency.