CHARLOTTESVILLE, JAN. 21 -- Virginia all-American wide receiver Herman Moore said today he will bypass his last year of collegiate eligibility and enter the NFL draft, ending some speculation that he had reconsidered his midseason statement that he was leaning toward the professional ranks.

He broke many school, Atlantic Coast Conference and national records last season as a redshirt junior, and stressed all along that he would leave in May if he felt he was projected as a first-round pick.

Still, he insisted the decision was difficult and he puzzled his teammates -- who felt his departure was imminent -- when he made a half-joking wager with a reporter covering Virginia's 23-22 loss to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl that he would return to school in the fall.

"I'm going pro," Moore said this afternoon between classes. A rhetoric and communications studies major, he plans to graduate in May at the end of his academic senior year. A formal announcement will come at a news conference here Tuesday.

"As far as football's concerned, there's nothing more for me to accomplish on the intercollegiate level unless I came back to improve on statistics, but those become boring after a point," Moore said. "I've put in my four years of school. My primary objective when I came here was to go four years, play football and get a degree, and I'm on course to do that."

He needs only 12 credit hours this semester -- the university's minimum courseload -- to graduate. Coach George Welsh encourages his players -- most of whom are redshirted as freshmen -- to attend summer classes to make up for lost time during the school year. But the result has been a proliferation of graduate students on the team -- nine in 1990 -- and Moore would have competed as a graduate student if he had returned.

"There's a lot of misconceptions in the words 'redshirt junior,' " Moore said. "A lot of people hear it and take that to think I'm a junior in school and that I'm opting to give up my last year of school and not graduate. But that's not the case at all."

"He's going to graduate in May and that's what's important," said Virginia defensive end Chris Slade, Moore's roommate. "He has nothing left to accomplish here. He's set a lot of records and now can go get the money and set his family for the rest of their lives."

The 6-foot-5 Moore was redshirted in 1987 but quickly emerged as the Cavaliers' deep threat in 1988, resurrecting the alley-oop play with quarterback Shawn Moore, who ironically often stands on the receiving end of the play on the team's intramural basketball squad.

Herman Moore once toyed with the idea of playing for the Virginia basketball team -- a prospect most heartily approved by former coach Terry Holland -- and his breathtaking leaping ability has brought him campus slam dunk titles and ACC high jump championships.

The Virginia athletic department undertook an unprecedented $12,000 campaign in August when it began a season-long promotion of Shawn Moore for the Heisman Trophy, but ironically Herman Moore may have been the stronger candidate.

Shawn Moore dislocated his thumb with a week left in the season against Maryland, and finished fourth in the Heisman balloting. Meanwhile, Herman Moore ended the season with 54 receptions for 1,190 yards and 13 touchdowns -- including an NCAA-record streak of nine consecutive games with a touchdown reception -- and finished sixth in the voting.

It was only a year ago when Moore feared that his effectiveness on the alley-oop play would forever label him a gimmick receiver. But a summer spent improving his speed to just over 4.5 in the 40-yard dash quickly made him the focal point of what for much of the season was the nation's top offense.

Virginia, then 7-0 and ranked No. 1, faced Georgia Tech here Nov. 3 with the hopes of a national championship, only to lose, 41-38, in the waning moments. But the game may be most remembered for the performance by Moore, who had nine catches for 234 yards.

Now, he likely will become Virginia's second first-round draft pick in three years (linebacker Jeff Lageman of the Jets was the other), but cautions that his rise in the professional ranks may not mirror his collegiate success.

"It's going to be a matter of developing more speed and learning how to get away from defensive backs who are quicker and stronger and hit harder," Moore said. "I'm going to have to improve as an all-around receiver almost all over again. I don't know if I'm going to be another Al Toon or Harold Carmichael or whoever. I want to develop my own status. I want to have other people compared to me and not me compared to others."