Virginia lacrosse player pleads guilty to assault
Walrath continues trend of lacrosse team altercations
Third-year College student Carl Walrath, a midfielder for the Virginia lacrosse team, pleaded guilty to assault and obstruction of justice Friday morning and will serve 10 days in prison.
The charges stemmed from a fight which occurred on the Corner last November. When police arrived to break up the fight, Walrath punched an officer in the face and ran. He was chased down and arrested several blocks from the scene.
Alcohol reportedly played a factor in the incident, though initial charges for public intoxication and disorderly conduct were dropped. The judge also cut Walrath’s 120 day prison sentence to just 10 days and 50 hours of court-mandated community service, pending good behavior.
Walrath’s status as a University student and as a member of the lacrosse team are still up in the air, as both the University Judiciary Committee and the athletics department have the ability to further reprimand Walrath.
“Generally, cases involving arrests will have been processed through Dean of Students office, and they’ll decide whether to file it with the UJC,” UJC Chair David Ensey said.
Ensey could not comment on any specific incidents and could not reveal whether a report had been filed for Walrath.
The UJC abides by the University’s 12 Standards of Conduct. The first standard includes a provision stating students should not physically assault anyone.
The athletic department initially responded to the incident by suspending Walrath from the team and is awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary hearing to determine further action, athletic department spokesperson Vince Briedis said.
“Per University policy, Carl Walrath was promptly suspended indefinitely after the incident occurred,” Briedis said in an email. “His status remains unchanged. Carl is currently enrolled at U.Va., and tomorrow [Tuesday] is his University hearing. Pending the outcome of the hearing, there is no timetable for a status change.”
The Walrath arrest is just one many of alcohol-related offenses members of the University lacrosse team have faced in the past several years.
Former University student and lacrosse player George Huguely was arrested for a violent confrontation with a police officer involving alcohol in 2010. Huguely was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love in a drunken altercation in May 2010, just two months after the incident with the officer.
According The Washington Post, in the three years prior to Love’s murder, eight members of the Virginia lacrosse team, including Huguely, were charged with alcohol-related offenses ranging from underage possession of alcohol to driving while intoxicated.
“I can tell you that nationally the data has identified student athletes as being particularly vulnerable to high risk drinking, and I don’t think U.Va. is particularly unique in that statistic,” said James Turner, executive director of the University’s National Social Norms Institute. “We do find that our athletes are under tremendous pressure both academically and from a performance standpoint. They do have the added burden of major commitments.”
Turner also pointed out a number of cultural factors, such as team life and activities, can encourage and enable substance abuse and misconduct.
“My impression is that alcohol abuse among several of the teams has actually gotten better, [decreasing] over the last several years,” Turner said. “The coaches and trainers are very committed to trying to change the culture and hold the athletes accountable. If you look at the lacrosse culture nationally, there’s an association between hard playing and hard partying in the lacrosse domain, even in high school.”
A joint effort between the athletic department and the Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention helped to create the Student Athlete Mentors Program, a peer-to-peer service that is the primary substance abuse program for University athletes. Mentors receive training regarding alcohol and substance abuse prevention and then serve as a resource for teammates in promoting responsible and safe behavior.