Nov. 30, 2005
IRVING, Texas - After leading his squad to the Conference USA East Division title and a berth in the inaugural league championship game, UCF head coach George O'Leary has been named the C-USA Coach of the Year, as selected by the league's head coaches and media members in each conference city. In addition, UCF freshman tailback Kevin Smith was named C-USA Freshman of the Year.
The East Division title highlights a year that saw UCF become the first team in NCAA history to clinch a spot in a conference championship game after going winless the previous year.
O'Leary has led his team to an 8-3 overall mark and a 7-1 league record. The eight-game improvement from 2004 is the second-best turnaround in NCAA history and a victory over Tulsa in the championship game will tie the Golden Knights with the 1999 Hawaii team that posted an NCAA-record 8.5-game improvement. UCF is just the seventh team in NCAA history to become bowl-eligible following a winless season. The Golden Knights' 2005 bowl game will be the first for the school, which made the jump to Division I-A football in 1996.
O'Leary was named national coach of the year by Sportsillustrated.com and CBSsportsline.com last week.
Smith helped lead a balanced UCF offense to the East Division title and a spot in the inaugural C-USA Championship game. Smith paced the team with 868 rushing yards, which was also the sixth-highest total by a freshman in NCAA Division I-A football this season. The Miami, Fla., native posted 711 of his yards in eight league contests and scored all five of his rushing touchdowns against C-USA opponents.
He was named to the All-C-USA second team offense yesterday and was also an All-C-USA freshman team selection.
The Golden Knights are 4-0 at the Florida Citrus Bowl this year, the site of the inaugural C-USA Championship game set for Saturday, Dec. 3 at Noon EST on ESPN.