Pete Lalich, Will Barker: Latest Casualties in UVA Football's Offseason Troubles

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJuly 28, 2008

We all know that boys will be boys, particularly when alcohol is involved.

However, that is little comfort to the Virginia Cavalier football team which has been suffering from one of its worst off-seasons in school history.

The latest episode of Cavaliers running afoul of the law occurred when projected starting offensive lineman Will Barker and red-shirt freshman Dave Roberts were arrested last Saturday night. 

The two allegedly tried to steal beer from a cooler at Club 216, Charlottesville's only after hour's club. 

Clearly alcohol has not been Virginia's friend this month. 

Just a few weeks ago, projected starting quarterback sophomore Pete Lalich was charged with possession and illegal purchase of alcohol since he is underage. 

When fans are already questioning your decision making, getting caught with a fake ID kind of adds fuel to the fire.

In total, Virginia has had five players arrested so far in 2008.  In addition, five more players have been released from the team due to academic issues, including two of Virginia's top players in quarterback Jameel Sewell and defensive lineman Jeffrey Fitzgerald.

Granted every team has off the field issues they are not proud of. 

Stealing beer from a cooler is not exactly the same as assault with a beer bottle like the brawl at an apartment involving Penn State players that ESPN Outside the Lines recently shed some light upon. 

However, when cornerback Mike Brown was arrested earlier this year police allegedly found electronic equipment with serial numbers scraped off.

That's a little more serious than boys being boys.

Now Virginia coach Al Groh is not being paid to be a parental guardian.  He cannot oversee the actions of around 60-80 players. 

He does, however, need to send a statement.

This is not just J'Courtney Williams, a linebacker buried in the depth chart that was never likely to see a snap in 2008, these are some of the supposed leaders of this team falling to either bad grades or bad decisions.

Virginia likes to talk about a commitment to "Uncompromised Excellence", so let's not compromise now.

This is no longer about football; it is about teaching young men that there are consequences for your actions.

Do not wait for petty crimes to reach bigger proportions.  

Second chances certainly are important in life. 

Sewell, to his credit, did not just give up.  He went to Piedmont Community College in Charlottesville and continued to learn and mentor young people as he tried to get his academics in order.  I truly believe he is learning his lesson the hard way and if he can earn his way back into UVA he deserves a second chance.

However, simply ignoring these minor incidents will not make them disappear.

Al Groh needs to suspend Barker, a shame considering he will sorely be needed against the Trojans of USC.

More importantly, I believe, Groh needs team captains who will serve as role models for others.

When your best returning players on offense and defense cannot make it past January with bad grades, and one of your best players of all-time is touring the country on his way to the NFL Draft their is certainly a void of leadership. 

Maybe Lalich, a sophomore, cannot fill that void right now but senior running back Cedric Peerman can.

How about Jon Copper, a fifth-year senior, who is married and a strong student?

These players represent the student athlete which most schools talk about but not everyone truly can claim.  

Hopefully, these issues will resolve themselves in house. 

Until then, Virginia fans can just rejoice that training camp (and the end of the dreadful 2008 off-season) is less than a week away.