SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Quarterback Everett Golson announced Thursday he is transferring from Notre Dame for his final season of eligibility, ending an up-and-down career with the Fighting Irish that included a trip to the national championship game and a season lost to an academic suspension.

"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.

Golson 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 immediately 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.

Golson's time at Notre Dame was tumultuous.

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 Malik Zaire started for the Irish against LSU in the Music City Bowl.

Golson refused to talk to the media all spring after The New Orleans 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 is from South Carolina.

Kelly had said last month that the competition between Golson and Zaire was close and would continue into August. As 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.

This article was written by Tom Coyne from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.