By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. —
Virginia’s Michael Rocco will transfer, removing himself from the revolving door at quarterback.
Coach Mike London says he met Friday with the junior quarterback, who started 21 games in the past two seasons, and granted Rocco’s request to be released from his scholarship. Rocco plans to complete the current semester at Virginia.
The Cavaliers finished 4-8 this season, and Rocco shared time at quarterback with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Last season, Rocco started all 13 games as a sophomore and led Virginia to an 8-5 record and its first bowl game since the 2007 season.
Rocco has not responded to messages seeking comment, but his uncle, Richmond head coach Danny Rocco, said he believes his nephew is going to test the waters in the coming weeks hoping to find a BCS-level school to join.
Rocco will have to sit out the 2013 season, per NCAA rules regarding transfers, but “To have a guy show up on your roster in two years that started 21 games in the ACC isn’t a bad thing to have,” Danny Rocco said by telephone Sunday.
He said he believes his nephew planned to release a statement about his decision by Monday.
In his career, Rocco threw for 4,731 yards, 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. His 2,671 passing yards in 2011 ranks as the fourth best single-season total in Virginia history. He’s eighth all-time at Virginia with 4,731 passing yards.
“After meeting with Michael and discussing his future with our program and his personal goals and interests I understand his desire to complete his college football career elsewhere,” London said in a statement released Sunday. “Michael has been an outstanding member of our program on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I appreciate the competitive nature, work ethic and leadership he brought to our program and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
In announcing that Rocco had won the job on the Monday before Virginia’s opener against Richmond, London was effusive in his praise of the quarterback’s knowledge of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s system and his execution.
But after victories against the Spiders and Penn State to start the season, the latter by a 17-16 score, the Cavaliers started a six-game slide.
After Sims nearly engineered a dramatic comeback with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a 44-38 loss to against Louisiana Tech, he was elevated to starter and took the first snaps for the next four games. Virginia lost the first three, and when the Cavaliers ended their victory drought with a 33-6 victory at N.C. State, Rocco played most of the game.
He regained the starting job and threw for 300 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left the following week to beat Miami 41-40, and then shared the job with Sims in a 17-14 loss at Virginia Tech.
Antone Exum intercepted Rocco’s pass with 3:21 to play, one Rocco later acknowledged was poorly thrown. It set Virginia Tech up for a game-winning, 29-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.