A group of nearly 200 former Ohio State athletes and students want the NCAA and Big Ten to investigate how the university handled sexual abuse accusations against former doctor Richard Strauss.
In a news release on Wednesday afternoon, that group of survivors of Strauss' abuse announced it is submitting letters to the NCAA and Big Ten to launch an investigation into the university, believing that the university has continued to fail to take accountability for Strauss' sexual abuse.
“We have given OSU more than two years to make this right. But all they have done is shamefully re-traumatize these victims through delay tactics and broken promises,” said Robert Allard, an attorney representing some of Strauss' victims, in a statement provided to Eleven Warriors. “It’s time for some oversight. We want the NCAA to conduct an independent review of why Ohio State enabled this physician to sexually abuse so many men for so many years and actively covered it all up to avoid bad publicity. We defer to the NCAA as to the best course of action in order to prevent current and future student-athletes from being sexually abused.”
The survivors of Strauss' abuse and their legal representation note that the NCAA and Big Ten took action after sexual abuse claims were brought against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Their letters to the NCAA and the Big Ten allege that “approximately 1,500 students and student-athletes” were impacted by Strauss' actions and that “Ohio State has downplayed the abuse we have suffered.”
Wednesday's announcement came one day after Ohio State announced it had reached a $5.8 million settlement with 23 additional survivors of Strauss' abuse, bringing the total of survivors who have settled with the university to 185. In a statement released by the university on Tuesday, Ohio State said it “continues to participate in good faith in the mediation process with the survivors involved in the remaining lawsuits, and remains committed to a resolution with plaintiffs, including a monetary resolution.”
“The university has condemned Strauss’ reprehensible conduct and expressed its appreciation to survivors for coming forward,” Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson said Tuesday. “Our work toward restorative justice continues.”
An independent investigation commissioned by the university in 2018 found that Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, abused at least 177 students during his 20-year tenure at Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. Of the 177 victims identified by that investigation, 153 were athletes, including 48 athletes from the wrestling team, 16 from gymnastics, 15 from swimming and diving, 13 from soccer team, 10 from lacrosse, seven each from hockey, track and field and baseball teams, four each from cross country, volleyball and fencing teams, three each from tennis and football teams and two each from cheerleading and golf teams.
The survivors who are asking the NCAA and Big Ten to step in, however, have not settled with the university and believe the university's investigation and subsequent actions have been insufficient.
“We're three years in with this, and nothing has been done, and the public is being convinced that stuff is being done behind the scenes when it really isn't,” said Mike Schyck, a former Ohio State wrestler, during a news conference on Wednesday. “Yeah, there was a group that settled, but that's peanuts compared to the precedent that's been set.”
Scott Smith, another attorney representing survivors, said the survivors are not looking for the NCAA and the Big Ten to issue specific penalties against Ohio State, but for the NCAA and the Big Ten to conduct their own investigation so that they know it is separate from Ohio State. The survivors are also asking the Big Ten to direct a share of conference revenue to victims of Strauss' sexual abuse.
“It's been two years now, and Ohio State hasn't done a darn thing. We have not seen any written policy changes, haven't seen anything to make sure that this doesn't happen again in the future,” Smith said. “And that's the reason why we're asking the NCAA and the Big Ten to step in.
“The sexual abuse scandal that went on at Ohio State is not unique to Ohio State, it's unique to a lot of other Big Ten teams – Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan ... and this needs to be addressed. And the only way I think it can be addressed at this point is for the Big Ten to get involved and for the NCAA to get involved and to exert some power. Because they are the institutions with the power.”
The survivors' letters to the NCAA and Big Ten can be viewed below. (Warning: The letters include graphic details of Strauss' sexual abuse.)