The school announced Conley's resignation with a press release distributed at the end of Thursday's first spring practice. He then addressed the team, receiving a pair of ovations. He then met with the media to discuss his departure.
But included in the group shocked by the announcement were the players, including Conley's charges at tight end.
Junior Ryan Hamby is penciled in as the starter at tight end after backing up Ben Hartsock the last two years.
"My first thought was this was a bad April Fool's joke," Hamby said. "I thought I would be 40 years old and he would still be around here. He has been around here for 36 years and now, I guess, it's time for him to move on."
Hamby added, "I wish him the best. He is a big part of the reason I'm here."
Sophomore Louis Irizarry figures to battle Hamby for the starting job this spring. He, too, was surprised by this sudden turn of events.
"I came out today … that's the last coach I expected to hear ‘retirement' from," Irizarry said. "But, I know he'll be around. He can't leave the university for too long and I wish him the best of luck. He was a great guy to play for."
Irizarry shared his thoughts on having to play for a new position coach in the fall.
"Me and Hamby and (senior Jason) Caldwell were talking and we're going to have to sit with Conley and see if he'll give us the head's up on who's coming in and stuff," Irizarry said. "But I don't think they're going to bring in a guy who's going to change too much. A newer guy, he'll have to get used to the program. I do not think it will be a big adjustment for us at all."
Linebacker A.J. Hawk also discussed Conley's sudden departure.
"That is a big loss for this program," Hawk said. "He has been here for so long and he knows so much. We're going to miss him. But at least he'll be with us the rest of the spring."