Saying the time is right for him to step down, Charleston Southern head football coach Jay Mills, 51, announced his retirement from the coaching profession Thursday afternoon.

Years: 2003-12Record: 48-63Highlights:2005 Big South Conference champions2005 Big South Conference coach of the year9-2 record in 2006 (best in school history)14-game winning streak (2005-06)

Mills, who just completed his 10th season as the head coach at CSU, says a desire to move into athletic administration is the sole reason for his sudden announcement. The decision was made over the holidays and CSU athletic director Hank Small was informed Wednesday morning.

“I consciously and of my own free will have decided to retire from coaching,” said Mills. “It is my desire to seek to continue to serve where I have been called by God in the area of athletic administration. I do not have a job waiting for me but I am confident that I have prepared myself for this next step in my professional career.”

Mills contemplated the decision over the holidays, even while recruiting. Small was initially taken aback by the decision.

“It came as quite a shock but it’s certainly a decision we respect,” said Small. “Jay has done so much for this football program and has been a great ambassador of this university.

“Certainly we wish him all the best. He is a man I have a great deal of love and respect for.”

Mills was 1-11 in his first season (2003) but two years later guided the program to its only Big South Conference championship in 2005. The Bucs set a school record with nine wins in 2006 and had one of the nation’s longest winning streaks at 14 games during that stretch.

Under Mills, the CSU program broadened its horizons in terms of scheduling. The Buccaneers played such programs as Miami, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Hawaii and Illinois over the last six seasons.

Mills, only the second head coach in the program’s history, retires with a 48-63 record. CSU was 0-11 in 2011 but bounced back with five victories this past season.

“The program is back. It’s on solid ground and I think it’s set up to be successful for a long time,” said Mills. “It’s just the right time for me personally. I thought about this decision after last season but my work was not done. I wanted to see us come back and finish strong and I thought our players and coaches did a great job.”

Small says he will move quickly to fill the vacancy and will spend four days next week at the NCAA Football Coaches Convention in Nashville before coming up with a short list of qualified candidates. He hopes to have a coach in place within weeks as the program hits the final two weeks of recruiting.

“We will move quickly but we will make sure we do the proper due diligence to hire the best man to lead this program,” said Small.

Small said the football coaching staff was recently increased by two positions, which the new coach will have a part in filling. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix accepted a head coaching position at an Alabama High School on Wednesday, thus leaving three openings on the new staff. All other current members of the coaching staff will be retained by the new head coach.

“The men we have on staff have done a great job and will be given an opportunity to continue helping to guide this program,” Small said.