Virginia boots QB from team

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich was dismissed from the team after admitting in court on Thursday that he violated terms of his drinking-related probation by consuming alcohol.

The dismissal, announced in a statement issued by the school, came on the same day that Lalich, 20, told a judge in Charlottesville General District Court that he had consumed alcohol while on probation following his arrest over the summer for underage drinking.

“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,” athletic director Craig Littlepage said in announcing the dismissal. “This is my decision and it has the support of head football coach Al Groh. We wish Peter the best in the future. We will have no further comment.”

Groh said that any time a situation doesn’t work out well for a player is “regrettable,” but said he and Littlepage “stand united” in dismissing Lalich, who started the Cavaliers’ first two games.

During a court appearance moved up to Thursday from Sept. 26 at the request of his attorney, Lalich told Judge Robert Downer that he misspoke in telling his probation officer that he had smoked marijuana since he was placed on probation after his July arrest.

He said the results of drug tests he provided to the court backed his claim, and told the judge he thought he had not been barred from drinking, but only from getting arrested.

Lalich, who won a three-way battle that lasted most of the preseason to earn the quarterback job, had been placed in a pre-conviction probation program. He is scheduled to return to court July 21, 2009, when the charges will be dropped if he stays out of trouble.

In a statement distributed by Lalich’s attorney, Tim Heaphy, before Lalich’s dismissal from the team was announced, the Springfield native said he has learned about personal responsibility from his problems and pledged to clean up his behavior.

“My family, the University of Virginia and the court have all given me opportunities to succeed in life,” his statement said. “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.”

A phone message left at the Lalich home was not returned, but Heaphy commended his client for owning up to his mistakes in court and noted that Downer left him on probation in spite of the infraction. Heaphy said he didn’t know what factors weighed into Virginia’s decision.

Downer told Lalich he tries to give people that come before him charged with underage drinking the chance to utilize the probation program, but also warned him that he would face a $500 fine or 50 hours of community service if he violated probation once more.

As the only one of Virginia’s three quarterback candidates with significant game experience, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Lalich also fit the prototype of a drop-back passer.

He threw for more than 3,100 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior at West Springfield High School, and was considered among the top prospects at his position in the country.

Lalich became the first true freshman to play quarterback at Virginia in a decade last year when he saw action in eight games as the backup to inconsistent Jameel Sewell, and Lalich became the heir apparent this season when Sewell was ineligible for academic reasons.

Lalich’s dismissal leaves Marc Verica, who saw his first action last week in a 45-10 loss at Connecticut, as Virginia’s likely starter when its plays at Duke next Saturday. Verica was 22-for-30 for 158 yards with an interception against Connecticut, and fifth-year senior Scott Deke, the third quarterback, relieved him and was 3-for-8 for 30 yards with an interception.

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