Pruett decides to retire

After what he described as the "maybe the toughest year of my life," Virginia assistant head football coach Bob Pruett has decided to retire.

Pruett, 65, was hired at Virginia last February as the team's defensive coordinator after a three-year hiatus from coaching. In December, Virginia coach Al Groh changed Pruett's position and responsibilities on the staff to assistant head coach/defense.

Groh and Pruett are longtime friends, so the decision didn't come as a surprise to those within the program, considering the trying year Pruett had personally off the field.

"I felt like I spent the most remarkable year of coaching of my 44 years this past year," Pruett said. "When I got here this time last year, I sat down and one of the first things I read was an article that predicted we would win one football game. For us to beat four bowl teams, and the I-AA [FCS] national champion, made for a remarkable and rewarding season. To see the fight and the resolve that coach Groh put into this program, especially after the Connecticut game, and through all the adversity, it was one of the most remarkable coaching jobs I've ever been around or part of.

"Having said that, it was maybe the toughest year of my life," Pruett said. "I had two former [Marshall] players killed, my best friend back in West Virginia is struggling with cancer and my brother passed away this year. My wife had two major surgeries and I've had a shoulder surgery. When we came here, we planned on doing this for some time. When you get to my stage in life, where there are many more years behind you than there are in front of you, you have to reassess your priorities from time to time. As much as I love our players and coaches and I love football, I think it is time to look at other things."

Pruett served as the head coach at Marshall from 1996 to 2004, directing the Thundering Herd to a 94-23 record (.803) over nine seasons. He began his coaching career in 1965 as an assistant at Falls Church (Va.) High School and joined the college ranks in 1979 as Marshall's defensive line coach. He also coached with Groh at Wake Forest in the 1980s.

"Bob has had remarkable success at every point of his coaching career and has had a huge impact on the lives of many people," Groh said. "He did a terrific job for us this past football season and in recruiting. Personally, he has been a great friend of mine for a long time.

"We tell our players that as passionate as we are about football, that there are more important things in life and family is one of those things," he said. "Bob is a model of that belief by his choosing to end his coaching career in order to serve his top priority -- his family. We applaud Bob for his career and courageous decision. We appreciate him, we love him and we will miss him."

Groh is hoping to hire a replacement from outside the program before spring practice begins on March 20.

Heather Dinich covers college football for ESPN.com.