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Bellisari suspended after DUI

Ohio State quarterback will be out indefinitely

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Posted: Friday November 16, 2001 11:05 AM
Updated: Saturday November 17, 2001 3:03 AM
  Steve Bellisari Steve Bellisari threw for three TDs in last week's rout of Purdue. Jamie Squire/Allsport

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State senior quarterback Steve Bellisari was suspended indefinitely and will miss his last home game after being charged Friday with drunken driving.

Bellisari had a blood alcohol level of 0.22 percent, said Scott Varner, spokesman for the city attorney's office, which is more than twice the state's legal limit of 0.10 percent.

He said Bellisari, 21, was charged with two counts of drunken driving, a stop sign violation and unnecessary squealing of tires.

"Team policy is to make the correct choices and exercise leadership and responsibility in life," athletic director Andy Geiger said. He said coach Jim Tressel would ultimately decide how long Bellisari's suspension would last.

Tressel said Bellisari, a team co-captain, was suspended for violating team policy. Backup Scott McMullen is expected to start Saturday's home game against Illinois, at which senior players are to be honored. Bellisari's name will not be read along with other seniors, the team said.

Geiger said Bellisari would not be at the game to avoid any distractions.

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"The focus of the day ought to be on the game and the people playing the game," Geiger said.

Tressel said he spoke with Bellisari Friday morning.

"For the past 10 months, we've discussed the importance of decision making in good quarterback play, the same is true in life," said Tressel, who became Ohio State's coach in January. "This can be a life lesson."

Ohio State police stopped Bellisari on campus at 2:20 a.m. Friday after police heard squealing tires followed by braking at a stop sign and then more squealing, police said.

An officer reported Bellisari had bloodshot eyes and when asked if he had been drinking, Bellisari said, "I had a couple of beers earlier."

Bellisari failed three sobriety tests and was taken to the police department where he agreed to a breath test, a police report said.

The report said Bellisari twice missed putting his index finger to his nose, was unable to balance himself on one leg and sang the alphabet rather than saying it as instructed.

Bellisari, who is from Boca Raton, Fla., was released after his arrest.

"It's a shocking development," Geiger said. "I was a little surprised at 7 o'clock this morning to get the telephone call."

Geiger said it was the first time Bellisari had violated the team's policy. Geiger said team policy does not mandate suspension for a first offense. However, Bellisari would have to undergo counseling, he said.

Geiger said he had not talked with Bellisari but said the quarterback was remorseful and upset.

"I feel badly that Steve made this mistake and is in this situation right now," he said.

The suspension comes at a crucial time for No. 25 Ohio State, which can win at least a share of the Big Ten title if it beats Illinois at home and rival Michigan in Ann Arbor in its final two games.

Bellisari's hardest hits have come from Ohio State fans this season, as his passes have tended to float and he has led an inconsistent offense.

The left-hander was loudly booed by fans at Ohio State home games and ridiculed by callers to radio shows after hitting just 8-of-21 passes for 68 yards in the 29-27 loss at Penn State three weeks ago.

But his play has improved recently.

In the last two games, he completed 26-of-37 passes (70.3 percent) for five touchdowns without an interception. In Ohio State's first seven games, he was 62-of-148 passing (42 percent) with six interceptions and only three TD passes.

Tressel earlier said Bellisari had improved his footwork and his decision-making while the other components of the offense -- offensive line, backs and wide receivers -- had improved as well.

Bellisari's brother Greg was co-captain of the 1996 team that was 11-1 and ended up No. 2 in the polls. He is currently a graduate assistant with the Ohio State defense.


 
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