Transfer junior quarterback Michael Rocco will not be eligible to play for the Spiders in the 2013 season, after leaving the University of Virginia this past semester.
After starting all 11 games for Virginia in 2011 and eight games in 2012, Rocco decided to change schools, looking for a fresh start to his football career, he said. He said he had seriously looked into Penn State and Temple, but decided on Richmond, with hopes of playing this season.
Rocco said he had known that if he transferred to another FBS school, he would be forced to sit out for a season, but thought that if he transferred to a Division I-AA program, he might be able to get a waiver that would allow him to play right away.
“Typically, student-athletes are given waivers to play if they have at least two more years of eligibility left,” said Maura Smith, Richmond’s assistant athletic director for compliance. “We were optimistic, but we knew it would be difficult because Michael only had one left.”
In mid-March, the NCAA denied the waiver attempt that the Richmond compliance office had filed in February. Rocco appealed the decision, but found out last week that his appeal had also been denied.
Rocco said that although he was disappointed that he would not be able to play in the fall, he was still happy with his decision to come to Richmond and play for his uncle, head coach Danny Rocco.
“I decided to come to Richmond primarily because my uncle is here,” he said.” “I was interested in Richmond from an academic and athletic standpoint, but I really came here because of him.”
Rocco has still been allowed to participate in spring practices and has been working hard to learn the offense and refine his skills, said Brandon Streeter, the Spiders’ offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
Rocco followed in the footsteps of his former Cavalier teammate and current Spider quarterback Michael Strauss, by leaving Charlottesville to come to Richmond. The two had been friends at Virginia, had remained friends while apart and now continue their friendship at Richmond, Rocco said.
“When I told [Michael] Strauss that I was thinking about coming to Richmond, he asked me to keep him updated and let him know if I needed any help with anything,” Rocco said.
Strauss started the final four games of the 2012 season for the Spiders, winning all four and solidifying his position as the leading candidate for starting quarterback in the fall.
“If Michael [Rocco] had been eligible, he obviously would have been in the mix for starting quarterback,” Streeter said. “Now, we are looking to guys like Montel White and David Broadus to compete with Strauss for the job.”
Even though he will have to sit out the season, Rocco has no plans of wasting his time, he said. His coaches have praised his work ethic and said they were impressed with his leadership ability, both on and off of the field.
Rocco said that his focus right now is on transitioning to life at Richmond and getting to know his teammates better, so that when the time comes that he can take the field, he would be more than ready.
Contact reporter James Riddick at firstname.lastname@example.org