By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 19, 2008
University of Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich was dismissed from the football team yesterday, an abrupt detour to the athletic career of a West Springfield graduate who arrived in Charlottesville as a heralded recruit.
His dismissal followed Lalich's admission in Charlottesville General District Court that he violated the terms of his probation that resulted from an alcohol-related arrest in July. Lalich admitted he drank alcohol after he was sentenced to a pre-conviction program on July 21. The decision to dismiss him from the team was made by Athletic Director Craig Littlepage and supported by Coach Al Groh.
"We have supported Peter, but believe today a point has been reached where it's best for all concerned that he no longer participate on the team," Littlepage said in a statement.
Said Groh in a statement, "Any time a situation doesn't work out in the most positive way for any player it's regrettable, but we stand united with this decision."
In a statement distributed by his attorney, Lalich, 20, denied using marijuana while on probation. During his court appearance, which was moved up to yesterday from Sept. 26 at the request of his lawyer, Lalich told Judge Robert Downer that he misspoke in telling his probation officer that he had smoked marijuana after he was placed on probation.
"I fully admit consuming alcohol during my probation period, but I did not use marijuana," Lalich said in the statement. "I have provided the court the results of drug tests administered by athletic trainers at U-Va., which corroborate that I did not violate the terms of my probation by using marijuana during my probationary period."
A spokesman from the athletic department said Lalich was not dismissed from the university. Lalich's father, Todd Lalich, declined to comment last night.
"Peter did a courageous thing by admitting the mistake, and it was hard to stand up under oath," said Tim Heaphy, Lalich's lawyer. "I think he learned and matured from this process, and U-Va. won't get to reap the benefits of the maturations if he is dismissed."
Lalich will remain on probation and is scheduled to return to court on July 21, 2009, one year after his initial hearing.
"I gave the judge my promise that I will abide by the terms of probation in the future," Lalich said. "I am grateful that the judge has agreed to leave me on probation."
Lalich, who last season became the first true freshman to play quarterback at Virginia since 1997, started the first two games this season, a 52-7 loss to No. 1 Southern California and a 16-0 win over Richmond. He completed 39 of 74 passes for 359 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Lalich played in the Richmond win despite media reports two days before the game that he had violated his probation. Both after the game and during the following week, Groh rejected any question of hesitation regarding Lalich's status.
A day after Lalich publicly denied accusations that he had used marijuana, Groh announced Lalich would not travel with the team for this past Saturday's game at Connecticut, a 45-10 loss.
"Everything changes from a day-to-day basis. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do at this time," Groh said Sept. 11 of not bringing Lalich on the trip. "There is no hidden statement of what we feel about any alleged or reported incidents, or any date coming up. As the whole thing has taken on legs, we decided to cut the legs off it."
Sophomore Marc Verica started in Lalich's place and completed 22 for 30 passes for 158 yards and one interception. Senior Scott Deke also played, going 3 for 8 for 30 yards and one interception. The Cavaliers' offense produced just 219 yards.
Virginia, which does not play this weekend, opens its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule at Duke on Sept. 27, but the Cavaliers will do so without the quarterback who won the starting job during a three-way competition in training camp.
"My family, the University of Virginia and the court have all given me opportunities to succeed in life," Lalich said in his statement. "I know that my actions have disappointed the people who have helped me. From this point forward, I will try my best to show my family, the university, my teammates, the court and everyone else that I am worthy of their faith and trust in me."