SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Everett Golson, once on track to be the winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history, is instead joining the long list of Fighting Irish quarterbacks who sought success elsewhere.
Golson announced Thursday he will use his final season of eligibility at another school, ending an up-and-down career for the Irish that included a trip to the national championship game, a season lost to a suspension over academics and a competition this spring with Malik Zaire for the starter's job.
"After much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to graduate from Notre Dame and transfer to another school effectively immediately," Golson said in a statement released to Fox Sports.
The 6-foot, 200-pound senior from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, thanked Notre Dame fans for their support and asked for privacy during what he called a life-changing moment. A call to his cellphone by The Associated Press wasn't returned.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly issued a statement thanking Golson and wishing him well.
"He had many significant achievements, including helping us to an undefeated regular season and berth into the national title game," Kelly said.
There has been speculation about Golson possibly leaving Notre Dame since December, and along with that rumors about where he could transfer.
There are plenty of prominent teams, especially in the Southeastern Conference, that will head into preseason practice with no clear starter. Among them are LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Golson's home state school of South Carolina. The SEC is no lock to accommodate Golson because of his suspension at Notre Dame: A school would have to apply for a waiver with the conference for Golson to be allowed to play because league rules prohibit accepting graduate transfers who have been disciplined by their previous schools.
The list of other Irish quarterbacks to leave early since 2000 include Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati), Andrew Hendrix (Miami, Ohio), Dayne Crist (Kansas), Demetrius Jones (Cincinnati), Zach Frazer (Connecticut), David Wolke (Western Kentucky), Chris Olsen (Virginia) and Matt LoVecchio (Indiana).
Golson, though, was the most successful of the group.
He led the Irish to a 12-0 regular season in 2012 and a berth in the title game, where Notre Dame lost 42-14 to Alabama. He was then suspended from school in the fall of 2013 for academic impropriety.
The Irish started last season 6-0 and were ranked No. 5 as Golson's record as a starter improved to 16-1, the best winning percentage in school history. But Golson committed 22 turnovers during the season and the Irish lost five of their final six regular-season games. He was benched during the regular-season finale blowout loss to USC and Zaire started for the Irish against LSU in the Music City Bowl.
Golson refused to talk to the media all spring after The Times-Picayune in January quoted a source as saying he had reached out to LSU about transferring there less than a week after the Irish beat the Tigers in the Music Bowl. Golson responded at the time with a tweet: "Don't believe everything you hear."
Kelly had said last month that the competition between Golson and Zaire was close and would continue into August. At recently as last month, the coach said he expected Golson to return.
"If I sensed it at all, I'd have pulled the plug on it myself, because we're wasting our time. And I think I got a pretty good sense of people and situations," Kelly said then. "I'm not going to jeopardize our program, our staff, our livelihood, what we do if somebody's not bought in and 100 percent committed."
Still, Kelly said Thursday that the Irish had approached preparations for the upcoming season with the possibility of Golson leaving in mind.
"The emergence of Malik Zaire, based on his performance in the Music City Bowl win over LSU, and throughout spring practice, has given our staff supreme confidence that he can lead our team to great success in 2015," he said.
Golson was 17-6 as a starter for the Irish, completing 443 of 745 passes for 5,850 yards with 41 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He also ran for 581 yards on 208 carries with 14 touchdowns.
Zaire, a junior next season with three years of eligibility left, has played in seven games, starting one. He has completed 21 of 35 passes for 266 yards with one touchdown. The 6-foot, 222-pound Zaire, who is better at the read-option than Golson but isn't as good a passer, also has run the ball 33 times for 187 yards with two touchdowns.
AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo contributed to this story.