|Saturday, December 8
Final contract details could be worked out by Monday
By Len Pasquarelli
Although there remain some contractual matters to be finalized, ESPN.com confirmed Saturday night that George O'Leary of Georgia Tech has -- in principle -- accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame, and the deal should be made official within two days.
Notre Dame will have a news conference at 4 p.m. ET today to introduce O'Leary.
Two sources within the Georgia Tech football program confirmed that O'Leary has taken the job and that he will inform his players and assistant coaches at Georgia Tech of his decision Sunday at a 9 a.m. team meeting.
Neither O'Leary nor Georgia Tech athletics director Dave Braine could be immediately reached for comment and the coach's agent, Jack Reale, did not return several messages Saturday night.
Over the past week, all three men denied that Irish athletics director Kevin White had contacted O'Leary about the position or sought permission from Braine to speak to him about it. But it is believed that White was in Atlanta on Saturday to gauge O'Leary's interest.
"We've stuck to this all week. Regardless of what comments people have made, Kevin (White) said we won't confirm, deny or discuss any of them. The next time there is something official from him is when we are ready to announce a coach," John Heisler, Notre Dame's associate AD, told The Associated Press.
The agent for Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham, the man believed to be the frontrunner after several other potential candidates withdrew from consideration this week, told ESPN.com late Saturday that neither he nor his client had heard from White about a formal interview.
"If it's true that (O'Leary) is getting the job, then so be it, because we've got nothing to report from our end," said Ray Anderson, Willingham's agent. "They haven't called us to set up a meeting or anything. It's been a little quiet the last few days."
Anderson said earlier in the week that there had been informal discussions with the Notre Dame officials to make certain they considered Willingham a serious candidate. It was believed that a formal interview would transpire this weekend, but it never occurred.
In recent days, college head coaches Bob Stoops of Oklahoma and Oregon's Mike Belotti told White they were not interested in the job, and it is believed both men either met with the AD or had extensive discussions by phone. NFL coaches Jon Gruden of Oakland and Steve Mariucci of San Francisco also said they would remain with their current teams and not seek the Notre Dame job.
The one NFL head coach who was avidly interested, Tom Coughlin of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was not contacted by the school.
O'Leary, 55, has posted a 52-33 record with the Yellow Jackets since succeeding Bill Lewis with three games remaining in the 1994 season. He was twice named coach of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and three times led the Yellow Jackets to top 25 finishes.
The 2001 season, however, was a disappointment for a team that began the campaign with BCS aspirations but posted just a 7-5 record. Georgia Tech will play Stanford in the Seattle Bowl on Dec. 27.
The gregarious O'Leary, whose name was linked to the Notre Dame job when the Irish instead hired Bob Davie, has a five-year rollover contract worth about $1.2 million annually. It is not known if there is a buyout included in the contract, but there has been plenty of speculation that the deal would specifically allow O'Leary to leave for the Notre Dame job.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.