Coach Brian Kelly is staying at Notre Dame for at least another year. Running back Cierre Wood is not.
Wood’s mother and stepfather confirmed to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune that the Notre Dame running back would forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL draft. ESPN’s Joe Schad reported that Wood was going to declare earlier this morning.
The move shouldn’t be all that surprising. Wood’s mother told the Tribune in November that he was about “70-30” leaning toward leaving.
“I just know that him and his mother discussed it, and it’s something he was ready for, and she said she was going to back him up on any decision he made,” Wood’s stepfather told the paper.
Notre Dame is expected to release a statement on Wood’s decision shortly.
The redshirt junior would finish his career with 2,447 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was the team’s second-leading rusher this season with 742 yards, but had just two in a BCS championship loss to Alabama. Wood was suspended the first two games of the 2012 season for “violating team rules.”
For more on what Wood’s departure means for the Irish, check out Keith Arnold‘s blog at Inside the Irish.
Updated 2:45 p.m. ET: As expected, Wood released a statement through the university this afternoon confirming his intentions to declare for the draft. He will exit the program as its seventh-leading rusher of all time.
“Having to make a decision like whether to stay in school or leave to pursue a lifelong dream of playing in the NFL is never simple,” Wood said. “I had to weigh many factors over the last month, but ultimately it came down to what I felt was the right decision that would most benefit my family. With that in mind, I’m leaving Notre Dame and am entering my name for this year’s NFL Draft.
“There are so many people I need to thank that have helped get me to this point. My teammates are friends I know I’ll have the rest of my life. I’ll miss hanging out with them in the locker room and around campus. They are a great group of guys and are poised for success next year.
“I also want to thank all of the coaches, specifically Coach Kelly and Coach Alford. Coach Kelly has the program heading in the right direction and I’m happy to know he’ll remain our head coach in the future. Coach Alford has been so much more than a coach to me. He’s been a mentor and a role model. He’s helped turn me into the man I am today.
“Lastly, I want to thank the school, our fans and the extended Notre Dame family. The love and appreciation you’ve shown me in my four years can never be repaid. I’ll always remember the ovation I received as I ran out of the tunnel on senior day and I can’t thank you enough.”
Brian Kelly also stated:
“Cierre has been an important member of our football team in my three years at Notre Dame and I appreciate all he did to help get our program back on top. I wish him well in the future and hope he has a successful playing career at the next level.”