Steve Bellisari was completely undeserving of the treatment he received as Ohio State’s quarterback.
As he began his sophomore season, he was the fan favorite to take the helm for the 1999 season.
When coach John Cooper named Austin Moherman the starter for the season opener, the fans still favored Bellisari. The two traded playing time until a game against UCLA when Bellisari became everyone’s starter.
On a key scoring drive for the Buckeyes, Bellisari leveled a Bruin defender to help the team gain its needed yards. After that play, he was named the full-time starter even though his stats were comparable to Moherman’s for the game.
Buckeye fans expected this sophomore to be just as good as graduated senior Joe Germaine, the previous starter and Rose Bowl MVP.
Germaine sat back in the pocket and picked apart defenses with his arm while the younger Bellisari made just as many plays with his legs as with his arm. It was like asking Steve Young to be exactly like Joe Montana.
Don’t forget Germaine’s supporting cast. Germaine had NFL Pro-Bowler David Boston while Bellisari had Ken-Yon Rambo and Reggie (brickhands) Germany. Germaine got all-star Michael Wiley while Bellisari got fumble-maniac Michael Wiley.
When the Buckeyes had a mediocre season, Bellisari shouldered most of the blame although it is ridiculous to single out one player when 22 start a game.
So, it was the same with his junior year. Cooper had supposedly revamped his offensive design to suit Bellisari’s running talents, but the game strategy still called for him to sit back in the pocket and throw.
By this time, many a fan was calling for him to be benched in favor of a backup. While I agree that every armchair quarterback fan out there is 10 times smarter at making player decisions than a coach with decades of experience, I still believe Bellisari was the best quarterback we had that year.
However, because he didn’t win a Heisman trophy and the team failed to beat Michigan or win a bowl game, fans were calling for Bellisari’s head.
Following that year, Cooper was fired and Jim Tressel became the new football coach. Much to the fans’ chagrin, Tressel said Bellisari was his starting quarterback. Now, two highly experienced coaches agreed that Bellisari was the best player to start at quarterback, and yet the fans were still calling for him to be replaced.
Early in that season, the Bellisari-bashing continued. Then, in the ultimate form of hatred and stupidity, the fans at the Horseshoe booed him. If you are booing against your team you, might as well be cheering for your opponent or rival (like Michigan).
Despite this betrayal, Bellisari actually improved greatly as the season wore on. Instead of cheering louder than they heckled previously, the fans simply demanded more of what they thought they long deserved. Even when he performed well, the fans gave him the cold shoulder.
Then, at the height of his best performances, Bellisari shot himself in the foot with a DUI to go down, very much undeservingly, as one of the most notorious players in OSU football history.
Brad Kane is a senior in journalism and The Lantern sports editor. He trusts coach Tressel and believes Craig Krenzel is the best quarterback OSU has now. He can be reached at [email protected].