-- Almost exactly a year ago, quarterback Marcus Vick was as heralded a newcomer as college football had seen in recent memory. But after an offseason that included five misdemeanor charges relating to two off-campus incidents, the school on Tuesday suspended Vick for the fall semester, punishment he apologetically accepted while vowing to "bring pride to the Vick name."
"It is clear to me that I have hurt many people," he said in a statement. "I am very sorry. I want to be a member of Virginia Tech's football program and I want to be a member of the university."
It was a hectic day for Vick, 20, all of it disappointing but little of it a major surprise because Director of Athletics Jim Weaver already had suspended him indefinitely from all team activities.
Tech announced the suspension mid-morning, with President Charles Steger saying: "I concur with the actions of the university judicial system. . . . If there is anymore trouble, his Virginia Tech career is effectively ended. But just as important, this offers a compassionate last-chance opportunity for Vick to get his personal life in order."
Re-admittance to the university also is contingent on Vick's successful completion of a formal drug education and counseling program. If Vick -- whose brother, Michael, starred at Tech and now plays for the Atlanta Falcons -- regains admission, he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Several hours after his suspension was announced, Vick pleaded guilty and no contest in a court in New Kent, Va., near Williamsburg, to the latest of the misdemeanor charges, reckless driving and possession of marijuana, respectively, after being stopped for driving 88 mph in a 65-mph zone July 3. He was fined $300, placed in a first-offender program, ordered to do 24 hours of community service and will lose his driver's license for at least 60 days and possibly an additional six months.
In mid-May, Vick, running back Mike Imoh and wide receiver Brenden Hill were found guilty of three misdemeanor charges each of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after a late-January incident in the apartment Vick and Hill share.
Vick was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $2,250. Hill was sentenced to 20 days in jail and fined $1,500 and Imoh (Robinson High) was sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined $750. All three appealed and their retrials are pending. Imoh and Hill have been suspended for the first three games by Weaver, but may participate in practices, which began late Tuesday.
Coach Frank Beamer issued a brief statement that read in part: "We think time away from the university and the football program might serve a useful purpose for Marcus. . . . [He] is a young man with a good heart who has made some poor decisions but still has an opportunity to have a bright future."
Tech did not make any players or assistant coaches available to comment.
Vick was expected to compete with senior Bryan Randall for the starting job this season. They essentially shared duties last year.
Part of the anticipation for Vick's collegiate career was the 5,000-plus total yards he had accumulated during his final two years in high school, and part of it was the stunning spring he had after redshirting as a freshman in 2002.
But the most alluring part was lineage, which Tech readily acknowledged while helping to fuel the hype by noting in Vick's bio for the 2003 media guide: "His first appearance is likely to be as highly anticipated by fans as that of his older brother, Michael, in 1999."
There were moments when Marcus offered reminders of Michael: passes under pressure flicked hard and precise for huge gains and runs that sometimes had tacklers grabbing for his legs and ending up with an armful of air. There also were moments, however, off the field as well as on, when Marcus showed an unsettling immaturity that seemed to escalate.
Gene Jones, Vick's principal at Warwick High in Newport News, Va., had nothing but praise for Vick while he was in school, but Jones said recently: "I would say to him if he asked my advice, 'You're getting to be a man. Act like it.' "
There were hints as early as preseason drills last season that Vick was not as disciplined as Tech coaches had hoped.
"He's got to ask himself, 'How important is it?' " quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said at the time. "Especially when you're competing with a guy of [Randall's] caliber. Randall worked in the summer, and [Vick] didn't do as much work."
Rogers added that Vick would see action when games still were in doubt because "we've got to find out if Marcus has that Vick magic in him."
After completing 7 of 10 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in a relief role in the season opener, Vick was suspended for the James Madison game for an unspecified violation of team rules. He also did not play in the next game, a 35-19 victory over Texas A&M. But when Randall was intercepted three times and lost a fumble during a loss to West Virginia and was ineffective early against Miami, Vick played extensively. He mostly handed off against the Hurricanes, but his 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ernest Wilford upped Tech's lead to 31-0 late in the third quarter.
Vick also finished the game against Pittsburgh a week later and missed by inches connecting with wide receiver Justin Hamilton on a fourth-down pass inside the Panthers 10-yard line with three-plus minutes left that almost surely would have turned the game. Pittsburgh then took the ball 70 yards for the winning touchdown in a 31-28 victory that eliminated Tech's dream of a national championship and started the second straight late-season slide.
In the final four games, the only extended minutes Vick had were at wide receiver in a 52-49 loss to Cal in the Insight Bowl. He caught four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he had two touchdown passes and five interceptions.
The best assessment of Vick as a player is the one Beamer had when fall drills were beginning about a year ago: "I've seen him throw the ball and you go, 'Wow!' I've seen him run the ball . . . and you go, 'Wow!' "
Just now, the assessments of Vick are being made in other areas.