UCF didn't have much of anything. The school had a new football building. That was about it.
"There was a practice field that had swamp around it," O'Leary said.
O'Leary trusted Orsini and the university administration to do what they promised. They did. UCF opened Bright House Networks Stadium in 2007. The Knights have real practice fields. They have an indoor facility. Training table, study hall, dorms -- it's all right there, a short walk from the center of campus.
"When you put up a building," O'Leary said, "the people who don't get any better just put the building up. I made sure the foundation was there. Then we put furniture in the building each year. That's how you get better. That comes down to recruiting, to the culture of the program."
O'Leary looked for team captains, self-starters, kids who wanted a degree. One of the guys he signed in his first February, before that winless season, was Josh Sitton. His senior year, UCF won the Conference USA title. Sitton just finished his sixth season as a guard for the Green Bay Packers. He made the Pro Bowl last season.
Another guy, quarterback Blake Bortles, played in a wing-T offense at Oviedo High, close to the UCF campus. He just led the Knights to the Fiesta Bowl, and Scouts Inc. projects that Bortles will be hugging it out with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
His players graduate. Last year, UCF finished with a 974 APR, 13th among the 70 bowl teams. And now, his teams win. Even with that 0-11 start, O'Leary's UCF record is 71-56 (.559).
UCF went through the inaugural season in the American undefeated in league play. The Knights knocked off preseason favorite Louisville. They finished 11-1, losing only by a field goal to No. 9 South Carolina. They went 6-1 in games decided by five points or fewer.
When UCF takes the field Wednesday night against No. 6 Baylor, the Knights will be a 17-point underdog. That's where O'Leary is used to living. He may be one step out of the spotlight, but the funny thing is, he knows how to win there.