CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Chris Borsari knows much about history. Shawn Moore knows much psychology. Trevor Ryals knows his sociology books, and Ron Carey recalls the sports medicine he took.
The four Virginia Cavaliers, along with defensive tackle Joe Hall, cornerback Tony Covington, kicker Jake McInerney, and tight end Mark Cooke, received their undergraduate degrees in May and by virtue of being redshirted in 1986 will compete this season as fifth-year seniors.
By all indications, the eight players comprise the largest group ever to compete on a team as graduate students. The widespread practice of redshirting, which permits athletes to spend their four years of eligibility over five years, often leads players to use the extra year to complete their undergraduate degrees. Some redshirt juniors graduate with eligibility remaining and leave school, while a third group -- like Virginia tailback Marcus Wilson last season -- graduate and enter the NFL draft.
Coach George Welsh redshirted most of the recruits who arrived in 1986, and only four of his 12 redshirt seniors this fall are without degrees. Of the graduate students, all but Cooke are projected starters. Moore is the quarterback, Borsari an offensive guard, Ryals the center and Carey the nose guard. All but Carey will pursue master's degrees in Virginia's graduate school of education. Carey will pursue a graduate program in sports medicine. Cooke, who played four years on the basketball team, will spend his second football season backing up tight end Bruce McGonnigal.
"When we came here in 1986, saw the team go 3-8, we looked at each other and said, "This is going to change,' " Hall said. "We set a lot of goals for ourselves academically and in football. This just shows how far we've been."
The precedent for graduate education has since been set. In 1987, quarterback Scott Secules spent his first full season as a starter competing as a graduate student. Kicker Mark Inderlied pursued a graduate degree in sports psychology as a fifth-year senior in 1988, while Joel Dempsey juggled his first year of law school with duties at punter and tight end. Last season four fifth-year players pursued master's degrees, including guard Roy Brown, who worked as a volunteer teaching assistant in an introductory foreign affairs class.
"It's been a tradition here that they graduate in four years, and they've been willing to give up their summers to do it," Welsh said. "Shawn Moore . . . I tried to slow him down a bit, but he didn't want to. Some semesters he had some tough loads to take."
A Bachelor of Arts degree at Virginia consists of 120 hours. Students are required to take a minimum of 12 credits each semester, and must earn 54 by the start of their junior years. Most Virginia players take 12 hours in the fall, then compensate by taking 18 in the spring or by returning in the summer for additional classes.
In 1985 and 1986, Virginia received the College Football Association's academic achievement award, which recognizes the program with the highest graduation rate of a recruiting class over a five-year period.