Three More Coaches Who Lied About Their History

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By now, you’ve probably heard the story of Yale football coach Tom Williams, who resigned this week for lying on his resume. He claimed to have been a Rhodes scholar candidate, and was even cited as a finalist during several stories about quarterback Patrick Witt’s Rhodes application. However, a New York Times investigation revealed that, while he was interested in the scholarship, he hadn’t even applied. He had also lied about being a member of the San Francisco 49ers on his resume.

Williams is far from the first coach to pad his resume a bit. Here are three more notable coaches who fibbed about anything from their academics to their age.

George O’Leary

George O’Leary’s tenure as head coach of Notre Dame was quite short-lived, lasting just five days. That’s how long it took school officials to discover that he had falsified many parts of his resume, including the fact that he had earned three letters playing football at the University of New Hampshire. In fact, he never even made it on the field (he had to sit out one season with mononucleosis). Worse, he claimed to have a master’s degree from NYU-Stony Brook, a school that doesn’t even exist. He had really attended SUNY-Stony Brook, but did not earn a degree.

When the information came out, O’Leary resigned, calling the lie “a selfish and thoughtless act many years ago.” A media investigation found that he had been listing the false information through several coaching stops, including as an assistant with Syracuse, defensive lines coach of the San Diego Chargers and as head coach of Georgia Tech. He made it through the controversy just fine – with an updated resume, he is currently the head coach at the University of Central Florida.

Marv Levy

When Marv Levy was first hired as head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 1986, he felt that his real age of 61 was too old, so he shaved a few years off and told everyone he was 58. Towards the end of his tenure, Levy switched his birth year back to the original 1925 in his official biography. When he was later hired back as general manager of the Bills in 2006, Levy spoke openly about his decision to come clean about the fib. “Maybe as I matured I came to realize it wasn’t a factor. It’s what you can do that counts,” he said.

Vince Lombardi

In their coverage of the Yale scandal, Deadspin pointed to a passage from a David Maraniss biography of Vince Lombardi that suggests that the legendary coach may have embellished his own history a bit. A New York Daily News profile of Lombardi – at the time an assistant coach for the Giants – discussed his history, starting with his birth in Brooklyn. From there, the article said, he played guard at Fordham, graduated after making Dean’s list for four years in a row, then spent two years at Fordham law school. However, Maraniss wrote that “the article by sportswriter Gene Ward had every fact wrong except where Lombardi was born.”

Nobody knows if Lombardi lied or Ward just got it wrong, but in reality Lombardi had dropped out of law school almost immediately. Nevertheless, it became part of his legend and several later profiles would credit him for law school or even a law degree.

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December 23, 2011 - 8:35am
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