"I'd like to thank Brian and his staff for leading our program to new heights over the past three seasons" Thomas said. "The legacy of his tenure at UC will be that of doing things the right way, on and off the field. We wish Brian, Paqui and their family well as they move on to accept a new challenge in life and look forward to continuing our Bearcats' winning ways in the upcoming Allstate Sugar Bowl and on into the future."
A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately. Thomas did not specify a time frame for concluding the search, and said that he would make no further comments until the search has been concluded.
"After an unbelievably successful and undefeated football season that has captured the hearts of fans across the country, it is disappointing and unfortunate that our coach is leaving," UC President Dr. Gregory Williams said. "We did our best, but he is following a dream. Still, we all wish him well. He holds a special place in the history of this esteemed university.
"As we move forward in pursuit of our dream, I have confidence in the 105 student-athletes, who have collectively given of themselves on the field and in the classroom to beat the odds and succeed. I also have confidence in Director of Athletics Mike Thomas and his team to build on the strong program that has been established. It is one of life's unavoidable lessons that things do not always go as planned. As a result, we must join together -- students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters -- to find yet another way to defy the odds and continue our quest for success in the classroom, on the field, and in life. Go Bearcats!"
Kelly recently completed his third regular season at Cincinnati with a record of 34-6. He led UC to back-to-back BIG EAST Conference Championships, was named the ESPN Home Depot Coach of the Year and is the three-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
He led the Bearcats to a 12-0 (7-0 BIG EAST Conference) start in 2009, the best opening to a season in school history. UC is ranked No. 3 in the final Bowl Championship Series standings of the season.
Kelly is also a finalist for four other national awards, the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award (Football Writers Association of America), Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award, Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, and the George Munger Award (Maxwell Football Club). He was also named the AFCA Region 1 Coach of the Year for the second-straight season.
"Just as we did in 2006, it is my plan to work with the president, board of trustees, and others on campus to move swiftly and surely to select our new head football coach," Thomas said. "will move to continue our success and continue to play in front of sellout crowds and compete for a national championship year in and year out."
No. 3 UC will close out the 2009 season in the 2010 Allstate Sugar Bowl against No. 5 Florida. The game is set for Jan. 1, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. EST in the Louisiana Superdome, and will be televised by FOX.