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Virginia cleans house; QB to transfer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia parted ways with quarterback Michael Rocco, defensive coordinator Jim Reid and three other coaches Sunday as it cleaned house after the Cavaliers finished 4-8.

Rocco, a junior who shared time at quarterback with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims, was granted a release from his scholarship at his request after a meeting Friday, coach Mike London said.

London also dismissed defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Jeff Hanson, running backs coach Mike Faragalli and tight ends coach Shawn Moore.

"After conducting a complete evaluation of the program and discussing my thoughts with administration, there are a number of areas we need to improve on and it starts with me as the head coach." London said in a statement. "The decision to release these four coaches is very difficult, but one I feel is necessary in order to meet the goals we have set for the Virginia football program."

London hired all four coaches when he took over the Virginia program in December 2009, and he brought Hanson and Faragalli with him from Richmond, where they also worked in 2008 and '09. According to the news release, Virigina will pay buyouts for the four assistant coaches totaling $1.36 million.

"I have coached with some of these men for many years, won a national championship with some, and I truly appreciate their dedication and commitment, and more importantly, their friendships," London said, referring to Richmond's 2008 FCS national title. "I wish them all the best."

Rocco, who started 21 games in the past two seasons, plans to complete the current semester at Virginia. Last season, he 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 from The Associated Press, but his uncle, Richmond 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 starting 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 and only because the Nittany Lions converted only one of five makeable field goal attempts, 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 NC 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 the season-ending, 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.

Virginia will begin a search to fill the coaching vacancies immediately.

"My primary task is to continue to evaluate this program and take the necessary steps to make us successful on the field." London said. "This university and its fans deserve a program that competes for championships. In order to do that we need to make improvements in every aspect of our football operation."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.