Maryland wide receiver Moises Cruz, a former starter who was suspended from the team after being charged with assault, has left the program because of his upcoming trial and for financial reasons, he and his lawyer said yesterday.
Cruz, a redshirt junior from Germantown, is scheduled to be tried Sept. 21 in Hyattsville on a second-degree assault charge, a misdemeanor. He allegedly hit a man in the face with a bottle during an incident early in the morning of April 18. Stephen Brennwald, Cruz's attorney, said a first-degree assault charge has been dropped.
"This case is just a burden on him," Brennwald said. "His goal at this point is to graduate and be successful in life. We are definitely working on this case and hope it gets resolved appropriately."
Cruz, 21, said the reasons for his departure from the team "are financial."
"I have a fiancee and a little boy," he said. "They're my main concerns, and I can't afford to play this fall. It breaks my heart not to be able to play, but I hope to come back in the spring after I get back on my feet."
Cruz was suspended after the alleged assault, and Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden had said the suspension's length would be decided after the case was resolved.
Vanderlinden said he is disappointed to lose Cruz, but understands the player's motivation.
"I admire what he's doing," Vanderlinden said after the Terrapins' practice yesterday morning. "He's got a lot going on in his life off the field, and he wants to take care of it. . . . I think he's doing what he feels is the best thing for his personal life."
Cruz said he has been working throughout the summer, sometimes more than 60 hours per week, and that he will work in addition to going to school in the fall. Under NCAA rules, athletes who are receiving an athletic scholarship can hold a job during the school year, but their earnings must be limited to $2,000 for the school year.
"I plan on remaining full time as a student so I won't be too far away from the team," he said during an interview yesterday evening. "I look forward to coming back in the spring if Coach Vanderlinden will have me."
Cruz came to Maryland from Seneca Valley High, where he played football, baseball and basketball and ran track. He was one of Montgomery County's top wide receivers before graduating in 1996.
Cruz was Maryland's second-leading receiver last season with 15 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest game was in the season opener against James Madison, when he made five catches for 62 yards. However, he caught more than one pass in a game only twice the rest of the season, finishing with one catch in the final three games.
He led the team in receptions as a redshirt freshman (29), and likely would have started this season.
However, Vanderlinden said the Terrapins are deep at the wide receiver position. Senior Jermaine Arrington returns after leading the team with 23 catches last season. Jason Hatala, a junior, takes over for Cruz at the other wide receiver spot. Hatala had only 10 catches last year, but Vanderlinden is looking for a big season from him.
Tailback LaMont Jordan (14 catches) and tight end John Waerig (12 catches) are the other top receivers returning from last year. Vanderlinden said the Terrapins hope to throw the ball more this year, possibly passing 22 to 25 times per game.