QUINCY -- Eleven years ago, when Bill Connell resigned as the Quincy Notre Dame football coach, his family -- his two children specifically -- convinced him to rescind his resignation and continue coaching the Raiders.
They won't change his mind again.
Connell announced Friday morning he is resigning as head football coach following 26 seasons at the helm. His children -- 20-year-old Shelby and 17-year-old Jackson -- are as much a reason for leaving now as they were for staying back then.
Jackson, an all-state linebacker who played for his father at QND, recently committed to play football at Quincy University and will sign his national letter of intent Feb. 6. Shelby, a sophomore on the John Wood Community College women's basketball team, is expected to make a decision soon where she will play her final two years in college.
"It's time to start a new chapter," the 49-year-old Connell said. "I've done what's right for the program for 26 years. And after 26 years, I have to do what's best for my family. When you're a coach, you coach. I don't know if that will ever change. It's what I do.
"But at this point, I'm going to be a spectator. I'm going to watch."
Although he rescinded his resignation after two months in January 2007, Connell is steadfast in his decision this time.
"This is 100 percent goodbye," he said.
Connell will remain at QND as athletic director and dean of students, and he will play a role in hiring his successor.
He said the search begins immediately.
"Things have already started for next year," Connell said. "Charter busses are already set up for next year. Schedules are done. Whomever we bring in, the cycle continues. We just have to find the new leader of our program."
Hired in 1992 at the age of 22 to take over a program that had endured back-to-back 1-8 seasons, Connell changed the culture completely.
After going 1-8 in 1992 and 4-5 in 1993, the Raiders went 10-1 in 1994, earned a state ranking and made the playoffs for the first time since 1983 and just the third time in program history. QND reached the playoffs 20 times over the next 23 seasons, going to the postseason 13 straight times at one stretch.
The 2004 team reached the Class 4A state semifinals, losing on the road to Coal City. Five other teams reached the state quarterfinals.
Connell's teams won 10 or more games six times as he fashioned a career record of 186-91.
"I've only been part of it," Connell said. "I've had assistant coaches who have been loyal to me and this program. I've had parents who have been loyal to me and this program. I've had players who have been more than loyal to me and this program.
"So I want to be fair to what we've built. I say the word 'we' because it is what we've built. I want the program to continue and I want the program to continue to get better. So it's time to hand the hat to somebody new."
There had been considerable speculation Connell would resign following the Raiders' 45-0 loss to Highland in the opening round of the playoffs on October 27. However, Connell wanted to make sure the QND staff honored this year's team at its annual banquet and his son made his college decision before the coach decided firmly on his future.
"When you walk off the field at Highland, you have your gut feeling there," Connell said. "What I've done much different than 11 years ago is give it time. I've given it a lot of time. It's been well thought through."
That mean many conversations with his wife, Jayme, and their children about this move.
"We've talked this over more than once," Connell said.
Ultimately, he made his decision for them.
"I think the program here is always going to be rich," Connell said. "Now is the right time to let someone else lead it. It's time for a new chapter for me."
The Connell Era
Season Record Postseason
1994 10-1 Class 2A second round
1995 10-2 Class 2A quarterfinals
1997 8-3 Class 3A second round
1998 7-3 Class 3A first round
1999 8-3 Class 3A second round
2000 8-3 Class 3A second round
2001 6-4 Class 4A first round
2003 5-5 Class 4A first round
2004 10-3 Class 4A semifinals
2005 8-3 Class 4A second round
2006 8-3 Class 4A second round
2007 8-3 Class 4A second round
2008 11-1 Class 4A quarterfinals
2009 11-1 Class 4A quarterfinals
2010 9-3 Class 4A quarterfinals
2011 7-3 Class 4A first round
2012 5-5 Class 4A first round
2013 10-2 Class 4A quarterfinals
2014 8-3 Class 4A second round
2015 7-4 Class 4A second round
2017 5-5 Class 4A first round