Ohio State Linebacker Charged With Having Gun, Drugs

By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Linebacker Marco Cooper was suspended from the Ohio State football team and barred from campus Monday following his arrest on felony charges of drug abuse and carrying a concealed weapon.

The junior from Detroit is accused of having a 9 mm handgun, ammunition and Ecstasy pills hidden in his sport utility vehicle when he was stopped by police for a traffic violation on Saturday night.

In a statement released by the university, head coach Jim Tressel said, "While I still have not been able to talk to Marco, based upon the information I do have, he will not be a member of the Ohio State football team in 2002. And the outcome of the legal process will determine if the suspension goes beyond that period of time."

Cooper also was suspended by the university's Office of Student Affairs. He has three days to appeal that ruling, which prevents him from attending classes or being on campus without permission from university authorities.

Earlier Monday, Cooper was released on $5,000 bond after spending two nights in the Franklin County jail. He kept his head down and showed no emotion as Franklin County Municipal Court Judge James Green added a $500 bond on misdemeanor traffic charges.

A preliminary hearing was set for May 7.

Cooper, 19, was stopped hours after the Buckeyes played their annual intrasquad scrimmage at Ohio Stadium to conclude spring workouts. The 6-foot, 225-pound junior -- expected to contend for a starting position this fall -- was the fourth-leading tackler in the game with three solo and two assisted tackles.

According to the arrest report, Cooper was driving without a license and gave officers permission to retrieve a temporary permit from his glove compartment.

The handgun and a plastic bag containing 12 white pills, which officers later determined was Ecstasy, were hidden in the center console, police said. An officer found a marijuana pipe in the passenger side door handle, the report said.

"The decisions he has made have made it necessary to revoke his privilege of participating in the sport," Tressel said.

One of Cooper's two passengers, Jeffrey Howells, 24, of Columbus, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. The other passenger, an Ohio State student, was not charged.

If Cooper appeals being barred from campus, Ohio State's student affairs office will determine if he should be allowed back on campus.

"One of the things we will have to determine is whether he is a continuing threat to other members of the university community," said Bill Hall, vice president for student affairs. "Given the fact that there's a weapon involved, it's going to be looked at very seriously. That takes it to an entirely different level."

Cooper is the fourth Ohio State player to run into trouble with the law since Tressel became head coach in January 2001 with a mandate to clean up the off-field antics of the Buckeyes.

Starting cornerback Derek Ross was sentenced to 30 days in jail for speeding and then giving the officer a false name. He was suspended from practice last spring but played last season, electing to leave school a year early for the NFL draft. He was taken in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys 10 days ago.

Two days before Ohio State was to play Illinois last November, starting quarterback Steve Bellisari was arrested for drunken driving. He was suspended indefinitely, and missed the Illinois game, but the suspension was lifted three days later.

He did not see action against Michigan in the regular-season finale but played most of Ohio State's Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. He later served a weekend in jail.

Two months ago, redshirt freshman linebacker Redgie Arden, since moved to tight end, pleaded guilty to drunken driving in his hometown of Ironton, Ohio. He was sentenced to three days in jail and fined.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)