COLUMBUS — Some of the men alleging decades-old sexual abuse by an Ohio State team doctor are asking the NCAA and the Big Ten conference to investigate the university and force changes to protect student-athletes in the future, suggesting that the school face sanctions even harsher than Penn State did in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Most of the 200-plus plaintiffs who haven’t settled their related lawsuits against Ohio State signed on to the letters being sent to the athletics association and the conference, lawyers involved said Wednesday. The alumni contend university employees enabled and covered up years of abuse by the late Richard Strauss despite students raising concerns with school officials as far back as the late 1970s, near the start of the doctor’s two-decade tenure.
“I think it’s time for them to step up and protect the athletes, both of yesterday and of today,” said Mike Murphy, a former pole vaulter who says he was abused by Strauss in the late 1980s.
Asked for comment about the call for additional investigation and the cover-up allegations, Ohio State spokesman Benjamin Johnson said the school “is not currently under investigation by the NCAA or Big Ten and has not received notification of a future investigation.” Messages seeking comment were left for the NCAA and the Big Ten.
An investigation conducted for Ohio State by a law firm concluded school officials knew of complaints about Strauss but failed to stop him. The university apologized and acknowledged more should have been done back then to investigate complaints, and it has made changes such as giving athletes access to multiple doctors and additional options for reporting misconduct.
The signees on the letters want more.
“Given that the NCAA previously concluded that Penn State’s actions involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky constituted a ‘failure of institutional and individual integrity,’ Ohio State’s repeated and stubborn refusal to stop an athletics team physician known to be a predator should also spur investigation and action,” the men said in the letter to the NCAA.
Penn State agreed to a $60 million fine and other athletics sanctions after a report commissioned by its trustees accused top university officials of burying abuse allegations against Sandusky. The non-monetary sanctions were later lifted.
Unlike Sandusky, Strauss wasn’t criminally charged. He died in 2005, and no one has publicly defended him since an ex-wrestler brought the allegations to light in 2018.
Ohio State already reached settlements with 185 plaintiffs for a total of $46.7 million, or an average of roughly $252,000 per survivor — far less than the average payouts by Penn State in the Sandusky case and by Michigan State for hundreds of victims of imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Vocal plaintiffs in the unsettled Ohio State cases have argued publicly for higher amounts, saying that they deserve such compensation for what they’ve endured and that the cost to the university should be great enough to ensure such a scenario doesn’t happen again.
Some of their attorneys said the men shouldn’t have even had to ask college athletics organizations to take action.
“When you see a scandal of sex abuse going on for decades like this, they should be jumping out on their own accord,” attorney Stephen Estey said. “We shouldn’t have to solicit assistance from the NCAA and Big Ten.”