University of Central Florida head football coach George O’Leary has retired from the Knights, effective immediately.

“I have tremendous professional and personal respect for George and all he has done for UCF,” President John C. Hitt said. “We’ve been successful in the classroom and on the field under his watch, and his achievements have helped build the bonds that unite Knights everywhere.

“This season has been difficult, and I support George’s decision to retire now so our program can begin planning for the future.”

Current UCF quarterbacks coach Danny Barrett, who is in his fifth year with the Knights, will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2015 season. Barrett previously worked as a head coach for the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders from 2000-06.

Hitt said he expects the new head coach will come from outside of the UCF program.

Said O’Leary: “In recent weeks there has been much speculation about the head coaching position at UCF and my future plans. Hopefully this statement clarifies the facts.

“After the 2013 championship season and Fiesta Bowl win I expressed my intention to retire at that time. After significant discussion with the UCF administration, I reconsidered and agreed to coach two additional seasons, 2014 and 2015. The administration has always been aware of my plan to retire after this season.

“2014 was a rewarding season which culminated in our second consecutive AAC championship and third conference championship in five seasons. 2015, however, has been a disappointment to me and many despite the hard work of our coaches and players. Many of the players are young but gaining valuable playing experience due to injuries and graduation. I am sure this will benefit them next season.

“In an effort to allow UCF to accelerate its search for my successor and clarify the facts regarding my future plans, I am retiring effective immediately.

“I appreciate the opportunity afforded me by John Hitt and Steve Orsini to come to UCF to build a program and the fine facilities we now have here. I am especially proud of our four conference championships and two additional championship appearances in the last 10 years along with seven bowl appearances and 31 wins in the three previous seasons.

“I again want to thank my coaches, players and loyal supporters for their efforts on this journey from the MAC to the AAC. Godspeed and go Knights.”

UCF is currently conducting a search for a new vice president and director of athletics. When that search is complete, the new AD will help lead the search for a new head football coach.

UCF expects to hire a new vice president and director of athletics by December.

“I plan to join Knights fans in supporting our team during our last four games,” Hitt said. “At the same time, I am excited about shaping the future of our football program.”