Former Syracuse offensive coordinator George DeLeone
Syracuse, N.Y. — George DeLeone, a longtime assistant coach whose installation of the freeze option offense helped ignite a run of success for the Syracuse football program, died Tuesday at the age of 73.
DeLeone spent 50 years in coaching, with most of that time spent at several outposts in the Northeast before ending his career at Baylor under Matt Rhule. Baylor confirmed the news of DeLeone’s death Tuesday night.
The New Jersey High School Football Coaches Association posted a tweet on Sunday that DeLeone was in hospice care after being diagnosed with cancer.
Known for a relentless dedication to teaching the game, DeLeone, a mainstay in New Jersey recruiting, was the mind behind the offensive system that propelled the Orange to an unbeaten season in 1987 and sustained winning for more than a decade.
Hired to coach the offensive line at Syracuse in 1985 by Dick MacPherson, who had been looking to add an option package to the offense, DeLeone coached a succession of great quarterbacks, inheriting Don McPherson and continuing with Todd Philcox, Marvin Graves, Kevin Mason and Donovan McNabb.
SU offensive coordinator George DeLeone talks with R.J. Anderson.
In his 19 seasons at Syracuse, DeLeone was part of 13 bowl teams (he coached in the NFL in San Diego when the Orange played in the Fiesta Bowl in 1997), and his quarterbacks ranked among the nation’s leaders in offensive efficiency.
For 13 of those seasons, he was the chief lieutenant to Paul Pasqualoni, two men who have become inseparable when discussing the great SU teams of the ‘90s. They’ve worked together for more than 25 years, and Pasqualoni is the godfather to DeLeone’s son, Mark.
Like Pasqualoni, now the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers, DeLeone was a football lifer, a character whose glasses, crooked necktie and expansive playbook gave off a professorial look. Others might have likened him to a mad scientist who seemingly slept in the football office, where 15-hour workdays were the norm.
That work ethic earned him a great deal of respect from Pasqualoni and school officials, who decided they still wanted DeLeone on staff as fans wanted to thaw the freeze option.
Syracuse went 146-76-4 during DeLeone’s tenure on staff.
As time went on, DeLeone set aside those waning years at SU, when the program didn’t reach the lofty bar it cleared in the ‘90s, and measured his career by the players and coaches he spent time around.
After Syracuse he spent one season in the Southeastern Conference as the offensive line coach under Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss.
Then he came back up North to work at Temple under Al Golden.
He linked up with another Connecticut native in Tony Sparano with the Miami Dolphins, then was coaxed back home to the college game at UConn by his dear friend Pasqualoni.
His last four seasons were all with Rhule before his health took a turn.
“I’m going to do this as long as I can physically stand up and do it,” DeLeone told the Post-Standard in 2011, ahead of his first game against Syracuse as a member of Pasqualoni’s staff at UConn.
“The only thing I know how to do is coach. I don’t see an end. I see tomorrow and getting ready for the next practice. If the time comes I’m going to move to a new parish and become the parish priest there. I’ve been blessed.”
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