Jon Waters to Ohio State: If School Reinstates Me, I'll Help Fix the Band's Culture

By D.J. Byrnes on August 5, 2014 at 11:36 am

Waters on the Today Show


Jon Waters made one thing clear today: He's not going down without stating his side of the story. As if he's willing to sue Ohio State, that remains somewhat unclear.

The former director of the Ohio State University marching band delivered a series of interviews with The Today ShowGood Morning America and the Columbus Dispatch.

The common theme throughout was, "I was fixing the culture." 

waters on the today show

Of the two television interviews, this was the better one.

Here, Waters starts by refusing to take the Savannah Guthrie's bait of labeling himself a scapegoat, but does mention the entrenched nature of the band's culture. He cites the 1930s as its origin.

Waters says he'd already eliminated "activities" from the band, and states the report was "shocking" due to its "inaccuracy and one-sided nature."

Waters adds this media blitz is part of him standing up for "our students."

Guthrie then runs down the lists of specific "activities" mentioned in the report and asks Waters, point blankly, if he was aware.

"I was aware," Waters concedes, "and I took great steps to eliminate them." He says he's eliminated things like the Midnight Ramp and rookie hazing.

Guthrie then points out the school alleges Waters didn't start his reforms until after the investigation had started. She asks, "Why didn't you just end it on your first day?"

Waters again falls back on the "entrenched culture" defense, and admits he couldn't turn it "on a dime." He contends, however, he did meet with his "leadership committee" on "the first day" in attempts to "shape the culture." He goes onto cite numerous "leadership training programs" he instituted.

Guthrie, however, doesn't buy it. She goes as far to label some of Waters defense "nonsense." And again questions why he refused to take a hard-hand with culture reforms he admits the band needed.

Waters contends he did take   hard-handed approach on day one. He says the report cities incidents that occurred before he was the director of the band.

Guthrie then interjects to remind him he was assistant band director for ten years prior to becoming director.

Waters concedes the point, but contends he couldn't shape "total policy" during his time as assistant director.

Waters then laments the unfinished business he left behind with the band. Waters says he has the support of the band members, because they read the report and said, "This is not the band that we know."

Guthrie then asks if Waters will sue the university in order to get his dream job back.

Waters rebuffs her on the legal front, and says his mission here is simply here to "set the record straight." He argues the shows of grandeur the band pulled off last season would not have been possible if the culture was as corroded as the university argued. 

Guthre, in what becomes the last question, asks again if he'll "try to get his job back."

Waters replies he'd simply "love an opportunity" to work with Ohio State to fix the band's culture.

Jon Waters on good morning america

Here, Waters states the characterization of the band's culture as "an Animal House fraternity" is "just not accurate."

Waters argues the 92-pages of evidence against him argues about the sample size of interviews included in the investigation. 

Waters again refuses to label himself a scapegoat, but does concede he sees himself as a "victim of a rush to judgement and a very inaccurate report."

Walters also argues he was battling against a band culture that had been "entrenched since the 1930s." 

The former director also claims none of his superiors ever approached him with a problem about the band's culture. In fact, Waters claims he "realized that himself." 


In an interview with Columbus' only major daily newspaper, Waters again stressed he'd help Ohio State fix the band's culture, but only if he's reinstated:

“I love my job, and I would love to absolutely come back to lead those students that I love, and to engage in the work that unfortunately I was not permitted to finish,” Waters said. “My hope in all of this is that Ohio State will — the university that I love — will take a step back and engage me in a dialogue as to the cultural issues that were reported.”

The university, however, went ahead with their plan to ultimately replace Waters. Yesterday, the named Russel Mikkelson and Scott Jones, two leaders from within the School of Music, to oversee the band this year on an interim basis.

“I unequivocally support the decision to terminate the former marching-band director and the measures taken to ensure that the culture of the marching band aligns with our institutional values,” Jeffrey Wadsworth, chairman of the OSU board of trustees, said in a statement yesterday.

While Waters never said he had plans to sue Ohio State, he never took it off the table in any of the three interviews. 

At this point, he seems content with merely offering Ohio State an olive branch, and Ohio State seems equally content with not taking it.

If Jon Waters truly wants his job back, it appears his only recourse will be through America's legal system.

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