Howard head football coach Gary Harrell will take a personal leave of absence for the 2013 season, with the plan to return in 2014, the university announced Monday.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school said associate head coach and defensive coordinator Rayford Petty will serve as interim head coach this season.

Harrell took over a team that won four games over the 2008-10 seasons and has gone 12-10 in his first two seasons. This past year, the Bison went 7-4 for their highest win total in a decade and finished second in the MEAC with a 6-2 conference record.

In a statement announcing the leave of absence, Harrell said:

"After much consideration and discussion with my family, advisors and several people at Howard University, it is with much sadness that I announce today that I will be taking a leave of absence for the 2013 season. In making this decision, I thought deeply about my extended family, my players and coaches. At this time, my personal and family issues make it impossible for me to give them 100 percent and anything less than that is unacceptable to me. However, as a man of deep faith in God, my family must take priority at this time.

"I want to stress that this is only a temporary leave of absence, and I look forward to returning to the sidelines in 2014 as the Bison continue to build a championship team. I want to thank Howard University for their understanding and compassion during this difficult time. Without their support it would not be possible for me to work these issues out so I may return to the University I love so much. I am proud to be an alumnus of Howard University and am excited about my future there."

Petty previously was Howard's head coach from 2002-06, compiling a 25-30 record.