- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Notre Dame reserve quarterback Dayne Crist will not return to the Irish next season.
Crist, who started the last two season openers for Notre Dame, met with coach Brian Kelly on Friday to pursue his release from Notre Dame, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday.
"I was not surprised. Dayne's been professional all year. He's worked hard," Kelly said Sunday night during a teleconference to discuss Notre Dame's invite to the Champs Sports Bowl. "But he knew he wanted to continue to play, and he was going to get that opportunity probably somewhere else. It didn't surprise me. We want to do everything to help Dayne to make sure he gets that opportunity."
Kelly said he wasn't sure what Crist's role would be as the Irish get ready to face Florida State in the bowl game, which will be played Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla.
"We've given him a release and he's going to have to pursue some of those things. Right now, it's pretty much up in the air. I've got to focus on the guys that are going to be here," Kelly said.
Crist is scheduled to graduate later this month and will have one year of eligibility remaining since he did not play his first year at Notre Dame. He can transfer to another school and play immediately so long as he enrolls in a graduate program that Notre Dame does not offer, per NCAA rules.
The rule has gained plenty of attention this season because of the success of quarterback Russell Wilson at Wisconsin. Wilson transferred from North Carolina State and led the Badgers to the Big Ten title Saturday night.
Bad breaks on and off the field were the hallmarks of Crist's tenure at Notre Dame.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder appeared in four games in 2009 before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in an Oct. 31 game against Washington State. He won the starting job to begin 2010 before rupturing the patella tendon in his left knee last Oct. 30 against Tulsa. He then got an infection and watched Tommy Rees emerge as the starter to close the season, as Rees went 4-0.
Crist then beat Rees out for the job this past offseason before being benched after the Irish fell behind South Florida 16-0 by halftime in Week 1. Crist completed 7 of 15 passes for 95 yards and threw an interception in the half. Rees started the second half and has been the Irish's No. 1 quarterback in every game since.
"I came in here with Dayne. Great guy. Great leader," said Irish star receiver Michael Floyd. "Through all the stuff that went on in his career here, he still kept his head up high and stayed a good friend of me and a good teammate to everyone."
The most action Crist saw since then came Oct. 22 against USC, when, with the Irish trailing 17-10, he relieved an injured Rees on a third-quarter drive. Crist completed 4 of 5 passes for 36 yards and brought Notre Dame to the 1 but fumbled the snap on a third-and-goal play. The Trojans returned the fumble for a touchdown.
Rees, a sophomore, started the Irish's last 11 games before he was benched after a rough first half Nov. 26 at Stanford. There, fellow sophomore Andrew Hendrix came in and performed well, further clouding Notre Dame's quarterback picture moving forward.
Add in the fact that another touted recruit, freshman Everett Golson, has yet to take a snap this season, and the situation looked bleak for Crist.
Crist committed to the Irish as ESPNU's 22nd overall prospect and No. 2 quarterback after a successful career at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Crist completed more than 58 percent of his passes for 2,327 yards for the Irish, with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was 4-6 as a starter.
"You're never going to meet a better guy than Dayne," senior safety Harrison Smith said. "Getting to know him off the field and being friends with him off the field is something I'll always be happy that we got to do that. I hope he's successful wherever he ends up going."
Matt Fortuna blogs on Notre Dame for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.