The Siedlecki era has officially come to an end.

Under increasingly harsh criticism from students and alumni following Saturday’s crushing loss in The Game, football coach Jack Siedlecki announced his retirement on Wednesday after 12 years presiding over one of college football’s most historic programs.

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Siedlecki said he will remain at Yale as an assistant director in the Athletics Department, and Yale officials said they will immediately begin searching for his successor.

“I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished over 12 years, going from 1-9 to 9-1 in three years, winning two Ivy League championships and playing with the title on the line in the final game of the season the past three years,” Siedlecki said in a statement. “I have been given an opportunity to stay affiliated with Yale Athletics for the balance of my career, and I deeply appreciate that.”

The statement, e-mailed to reporters shortly at 12:30 p.m., confirmed a News report earlier Wednesday that the coach had decided to step down and would join the Athletics Department in an administrative capacity.

Siedlecki coached the Bulldogs to a 70-49 record over 12 years. He led the team to two Ivy titles, one in 1999 and the other in 2006, and last year was named Coach of the Year by the New England Football Writers Association.

Rumors about Siedlecki’s possible departure began to circulate among members of the football team on Tuesday, three days after Yale lost to archrival Harvard in The Game for the seventh time in eight meetings. The defeat dropped Siedlecki’s overall record against the Crimson to 4-8.

In the wake of Saturday’s defeat, students and alumni have directed a torrent of criticism at Siedlecki, with some suggesting he should be fired. It was not just that Harvard has Siedlecki’s number, many of them said; rather, it was the way in which the Crimson dominated the Elis the last two seasons that suggested Yale should go in another direction. In the teams’ last two meetings combined, Harvard has outscored Yale 47-6 and the Bulldogs have been held to under 200 yards of total offense.

The loss on Saturday was on the latest setback in a disappointing season. Entering the season as co-favorites to win the Ivy League championship with the Crimson, the Elis finished a 6-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play, good for only fourth place in the Ivy League.

Those results came despite boasting the No. 1 scoring defense for the second consecutive year and the return of one the most prolific tailbacks in Ivy League history, Mike McLeod ’09. Yet the Bulldog offense was not able to match the defense’s strength and was held to 14 or fewer points in six of the team’s ten games.

Still, Siedlecki posted a winning record over his tenure, and his squad was a combined 23-7 over the past three years. In the statement, Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett praised Siedlecki’s tenure.

“We are proud of the work Jack and his staff have accomplished in a football program where the expectations are very high and the results have been good,” Beckett said. “We believe the Jack will continue to be a valuable presence as an assistant director of athletics in a position where he can be a powerful advocate and spokesperson for Ivy athletics and Ivy athletes, both within the University and around the nation.”

Siedlecki, a 1974 graduate of Union College, began his coaching career at the University of Albany as an assistant coach in 1976. After stops at Wagner College and Lafayette College, he received his first head coaching job at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1988. He then took the head coaching position at Amherst College before being hired by Yale to replace legendary head coach Carm Cozza for the 1997 season.

The statement said that a search committee will be assembled and will immediately begin to look for Siedlecki’s replacement. Although Yale officials were mum about any specific names, defensive coordinator Rick Flanders may be an early favorite after leading the nation’s top scoring defense two years in a row.

“I think we have some capable guys on the staff,” Brandt Hollander ’08, the captain of the 2007 squad, said by phone Wednesday. “Who comes to mind is the defensive coordinator, Coach Flanders. He’s led the number one scoring defense in the country two years in a row. And Yale is such a unique place and going with a guy familiar with the unique situation will be a good choice.”

The Web site first reported on Tuesday that Siedlecki would not return to coach the Bulldogs next season.