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The quarterback transferred to Winston-Salem State after academic problems at Virginia.
Associated Press | File 2012
Phillip Sims started four games at quarterback for Virginia.
Associated Press | File 2012
Phillip Sims shared time at quarterback for Virginia last season. Phillip Sims shared time at quarterback for Virginia last season.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — One year earlier, transfer quarterback Phillip Sims was the talk of Virginia’s preseason football camp.
When the Cavaliers’ players reported this year, he was back in Tidewater, packing his car for a trip to his new college football home, Winston-Salem (N.C.) State.
Former teammates only spoke about Sims when asked.
“It does hurt,” fifth-year wide receiver Tim Smith said. “Phil’s been my teammate since high school. When he came here, I would have thought things would work out.
“Hopefully things will work out for him at Winston-Salem.”
Sims, a high-school All-American at Oscar Smith in Chesapeake, spent his first two seasons at Alabama and was the back-up to A.J. McCarron on the Crimson Tide’s national-championship team in 2010.
He transferred to Virginia after going through spring practice with Alabama in 2012 and was granted immediate eligibility due to a family medical situation.
Sims played in all 12 games, starting four while sharing time with 2011 starter Michael Rocco.
In a bizarre turn of events, Rocco asked for a release one week after the season; then, Sims, who had been dropped to third string, was declared academically ineligible in early June.
The Cavaliers were left without a quarterback who attempted a pass last season.
“I came back from Africa and it was news to me,” said linebacker Henry Coley, who had been on the trip for a class. “My uncle sat me down and it had just flashed across ESPN. A lot of us just don’t know what happened. “He’s a talented player and last year he didn’t have all that much time to learn the playbook but this year was probably going to be his year.”
Many have wondered if Sims would have been better served if the NCAA had not allowed him to play immediately, giving him more time to establish himself academically.
“How much time did he already spend sitting around at Alabama?” Coley asked. “Do you think any player of his caliber or talent would want to hear, ‘Take another year off?’
“That’s nothing you were going to tell Phillip Sims. I don’t blame him for wanting to play right away.”
Had the waiver not been approved, Sims would have lost a year’s eligibility that apparently he’s now going to lose at Division II Winston-Salem State. Pending an appeal, he won’t play there till 2014, when he will be a fifth-year senior.
“I’ve been talking to him off and on since the incident happened,” said Coley, a graduate of Bayside High School in Virginia Beach. “We had our little sad moments. It is what it is. He’s a man at the end of the day.
“He knows what went wrong. Whoever else was involved knows what went wrong. He’s just trying to take that next step.”
By incident, Coley appeared to be referring to Sims’ inability to meet academic standards.
“I’m very, very pleased that he was given another chance” Coley said. “I think he enjoyed playing with us. Every experience is a good experience and I definitely feel he matured or grew from it.”
Few people have criticized Virginia for taking Sims when the opportunity was presented.
“Obviously, on paper, he looked great,” 2012 starting center Luke Bowanko said. “He’s a five-star, best player ever, but I couldn’t tell. I’m an offensive lineman. I don’t know what I’m talking about.
“It was like, ‘Heck, yeah, let’s get this guy in here, he’s going to win us some football games.’ It didn’t work out that way for whatever reason. No slam on him. Sometimes, the game just went different ways. Best of luck to him.”
If the Sims saga seemed like something of a soap opera, that was only natural, according to junior defensive back Anthony Harris. “You’re always going to have some stigma surrounding the quarterbacks when you’ve got two battling it out like that,” Harris said. “That’s something you’ve got to ignore and just let them battle it out.
“It was a shock to see [Sims] go but there are controversial issues at other programs and not just ours.”
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