Former Irish Lacrosse Coach Rich O'Leary Passes Away
July 21, 2009
Courtesy of Notre Dame
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Rich O'Leary, director of intramurals and club sports at the University of Notre Dame, a former Irish men's lacrosse coach and a 37-year member of the University's athletics administration, died early this morning at his South Bend, Ind., home after a cancer-related illness. He was 62.
O'Leary was responsible for more than 60 intramural activities as well as supervision for Notre Dame's 24 club sports teams. He worked particularly closely with the Bengal Bouts, Notre Dame's historic club boxing tournament that benefits the Bangladesh missions (the Bengal Bouts and Notre Dame's tackle football intramural program are considered unique in college recreation). He also oversaw the outdoor recreational facilities and the St. Joseph Lake Beach and Boathouse.
O'Leary served as the Notre Dame men's lacrosse and men's soccer coach in the early club years. He became the first Irish varsity men's lacrosse coach, handling that assignment for eight years from 1981 through 1988 -- following 10 seasons (1971-80) as the Irish club lacrosse head coach (79-53 record).
He led the Irish varsity lacrosse team to division titles in the Midwest Club Lacrosse Association in 1982, '84, '85, '86 and '88. His final Irish squad in '88 finished 10-4 and three other seasons produced nine wins. He finished with a 64-42 career record (.604). He served as president of the Midwest Club Lacrosse Association in 1975 and 1976 – and in '76 he coached the Midwest squad in the Midwest All-Star vs. College All-Star game. In 1986 he served on the selection committee to choose the United States team for the World Lacrosse Games.
The men's team room in the new Arlotta Stadium that will open this fall and be home to the Irish men's and women's lacrosse programs had been named in O'Leary's honor, based on contributions from his former players.
O'Leary originally came to Notre Dame in 1971 as assistant director of non-varsity sports. On two occasions Sports Illustrated named Notre Dame's intramural program best in the nation. A long-time respected member of the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) and Indiana Recreational Sports Association (IRSA), O'Leary assisted in hosting numerous state and regional workshops. Notre Dame's club sports and intramural programs, as well as the entire Office of Recreational Sports, advanced significantly under his leadership, including particular innovations in applying technology to campus recreation needs.
He received a Presidential Award from then-Notre Dame president Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., in 1996 – and the Notre Dame Monogram Club awarded him an honorary monogram in 2002. He has worked for many years in the timing booth at Notre Dame home football games at Notre Dame Stadium and on the Joyce Center scorer's table at Irish home men's and women's basketball games.
After a four-year prep career at East Meadow High School in New York, O'Leary played lacrosse at Nassau Community College for one season, helping the team to the national junior college championship in 1967. He twice received All-America honors ('68 and '69) playing attack while attending SUNY-Cortland -- and he was selected to play in the North-South all-star game in '69. He played two years with the Long Island Athletic Club and nine years with the Chicago Lacrosse Club – and he twice was a member of the North squad in the U.S. Club Lacrosse Association all-star game ('67 and '72). He also spent a year as assistant freshman lacrosse coach at Cornell.
Born Oct. 9, 1946, in Oceanside, N.Y., O'Leary grew up in East Meadow, N.Y. He received his associate degree from Nassau Community College in 1968 and his bachelor's degree from Cortland in 1971. He earned his master's degree from Notre Dame in 1977.
O'Leary is survived by his wife, the former Linda Hempel, a longtime teacher and coach in the South Bend Community School Corporation. They have four children: Megan Leyes of Boulder, Colo; Erin, also of Boulder, Colo; Daniel, of Corvallis, Ore., and Kevin, of Omaha, Neb.
A memorial service for O'Leary will be held at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Monday, July 27, in the Monogram Room of the Joyce Center (park south of the Joyce Center; enter Gate 1). In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Rich O'Leary Memorial Fund that will benefit the Notre Dame men's lacrosse program and the Bengal Bouts (112 Joyce Center, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556).