Nearly 200 former Ohio State athletes are calling for the NCAA and Big Ten to investigate and take action against OSU over its coverup of Richard Strauss sexual abuse
Please show your support by reading the letters and signing at Change.org
To: NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors
As the NCAA states on its website, the organization was founded to keep college sports safe, and it continues to work hard to promote safety, excellence, and physical and mental wellbeing for student‐athletes.
Many of us are former student‐athletes of The Ohio State University, and all of us are sexual abuse survivors or supporters of survivors of the University’s deliberate and calculated cover‐up of athletic team and Student Health physician Dr. Richard Strauss’s rampant, decades‐long reign of sexual predation. Sports Illustrated (attached) calls this, “The most sweeping sex abuse scandal in the history of American higher education—to say nothing of the history of college sports.”
Through this letter, we request that the NCAA investigate OSU for misconduct and concealment that led to the harm of approximately 1,500 students and student‐athletes. We also request that the NCAA take action to ensure that future students attending Ohio State be protected from sexual predators in positions of power.
This request is consistent with action the NCAA has taken in the past. In 2012, for example, the NCAA investigated fellow Big Ten member Penn State University. President Emmert, you were part of the executive committee that properly decided to protect a future generation of students and athletes at Penn State from another institutional failure to prevent harm, taking action to address Jerry Sandusky’s unchecked sexual abuse at Penn State. Today, we ask you to take action to address the dire situation that occurred at Ohio State. For twenty‐years, Ohio State willfully and deliberately ignored Dr. Strauss's sexual predation of countless students entrusted to the University’s care. It then concealed the truth for another twenty years, allowing Dr. Strauss to quietly retire and then gilding his legacy with emeritus status. 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.
In the attached Perkins Coie Report, commissioned and accepted by Ohio State, you will find countless examples of deliberate and willful attempts to cover up credible allegations of sexual abuse by administrators with the power to stop Dr. Strauss. These persons included athletic directors, assistant athletic directors, head athletic team physicians, team physicians, coaches, trainers, and student health officials—including the Director of Student Health at the University.
Upon the release of the Report, then‐Ohio State President Michael Drake admitted that the University’s inactions were inexcusable:
Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable‐ as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.
In the last two years, we have also learned that Ohio State unquestionably obstructed at least three investigations by failing to provide known information about Dr. Strauss’s imminent threat to the safety and welfare of students:
- Office of Student Affairs (commenced in 1996)
- State Medical Board of Ohio (1996); and
- Department of Education/Office of Civil Rights (2011).
Here, you will find that, despite Ohio State admitting that it woefully failed to protect us, it is unwilling to accept accountability or to take meaningful steps to ensure that future Ohio State student‐athletes are not sexually abused. Former President Drake and new President Kristina Johnson have done next to nothing to hold accountable those responsible for the scandal or to enact meaningful measures to protect future students from sexual predators.
To exacerbate matters, Ohio State continues to re‐traumatize student‐athletes abused by Dr. Strauss with empty promises that they will “take care of” us while simultaneously and hypocritically arguing to the court that our legal claims must be dismissed because the abuse happened many years ago. This is a classic example of an entity “talking out of both sides of its mouth” in order to preserve its reputation and brand. As a result of the countless delays created by underhanded litigation tactics, some sexual abuse victims have been forced to accept a few thousand dollars for harm that has been quantified by professionals to be in the millions of dollars. This is not accountability; rather, it is an outright traumatization. It is also reprehensible and unconscionable.
Sexual abuse is an offense that violates individuals in the worst of ways and results in lifelong harm. Ohio State has downplayed the abuse we have suffered and would like you to believe that the abuse involved a bit of groping, grabbing, or voyeurism. But many of us were subjected to repeated genital manipulation, sometimes to the point of erection or ejaculation, as well as medically unnecessary digital penetration of our rectums. And some of us suffered anal rape.
We have attached the stories of three student‐athletes to illustrate the savagery of the crimes which simply would not and should not have happened—if only the University acted quickly and decisively to rid itself of Dr. Strauss.
The NCAA Constitution states that the organization provides “support and educational resources to member institutions so that each member institution can take actions—consistent with the federal, state and local laws applicable to the member institution—to protect the safety of its student‐athletes.” When crimes against student‐athletes are allowed to continue for more than two decades, and then concealed for two decades more to protect the institution, the NCAA must intervene and use its leverage to force the implementation of measures to protect students at schools like Ohio State that cover‐up criminal sexual behavior.
The NCAA Constitution further provides, at section 19.01.5, Exemplary Conduct, that those employed by member institutions must do more to avoid improper conduct or questionable acts, as “[t]heir own moral values must be so certain and positive that those younger and more pliable will be influenced by a fine example. Much more is expected of them than of the less critically placed citizen."
To deter Ohio State from engaging in similar conduct in the future, we suggest that the NCAA review how it divides revenue with the University. First, any monetary fine must be more significant than that levied on Penn State, as the number of victims is exponentially greater than at Penn State and the level of cover‐up, unlike PSU, stretches decades. We suggest that any fine or diverted revenue be put aside to fund a newly established "Victims Assistance Fund" for student‐athletes of sexual abuse and sexual assault. It is critical that you send a message to institutions like Ohio State that they will be held accountable if they harbor, enable and coverup for sexual predators like Richard Strauss.
Finally, we ask that Chairman Michael Drake be recused from any decision‐making or input on this issue given his former ties to the University.
Register your support by signing this letter at Change.org
To: Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and The Council of Presidents and Chancellors
Many of us are former student‐athletes of The Ohio State University, and all of us are sexual abuse survivors or supporters of survivors of the University’s former athletic team and Student Health physician Dr. Richard Strauss. We are writing to request that the Big Ten Conference investigate Ohio State for facilitating and intentionally covering up Dr. Strauss’s sexual abuse of approximately 1,500 students and student‐athletes over the course of four decades, and force the University to take action designed to ensure that future students attending Ohio State are protected from sexual predators. Sports Illustrated (attached) calls this, “The most sweeping sex abuse scandal in the history of American higher education—to say nothing of the history of college sports.”
The actions that we are asking you to take are not unprecedented. For example, during the height of the Penn State scandal, Sally Mason‐‐ then the President of the University of Iowa and the chair of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents and Chancellors‐‐ told the Des Moines Register that the Conference was prepared to take action:
The Conference definitely has jurisdiction to take action in a case like this.
Former Big Ten Commissioner, Mr. Jim Delaney, during that same time, said:
The only thing that matters to me is I think the NCAA did have moral authority to act, and I think the Big Ten had moral authority to act.
Much like Penn State, OSU commissioned and accepted an independent report regarding the abuse that we experienced. In the Penn State matter, Mr. Delany pointed to the Freeh Report as a legal set of findings. In the Ohio State case, the University embraced its Perkins Coie Report (attached), apologized to sexual abuse victims, and promised to "take care of" these men, including many of us who’ve signed below. Upon the release of the 2019 report detailing the scale of abuse that happened for two decades on Ohio State’s watch, and the two decades of cover-up that followed, then‐Ohio State president Michael Drake said:
Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable — as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.
Unfortunately, a year‐and‐a‐half after Ohio State’s promise to its students and alumni, the University continues to re‐victimize the abuse survivors through delay tactics and broken promises. Making matters worse, Ohio State has shown by the low settlement it reached with some abuse survivors that it is not taking responsibility for its institutional failures and concealment of the same. That amount is far less than what Michigan State University and Penn State University paid to those with similar sexual abuse claims against them. Further, Ohio State is using the courts to try to evade accountability by, for example, arguing that these claims should be thrown out as too late. In short, the University’s conduct is unconscionable and reprehensible.
Sexual abuse is a crime that violates individuals in the worst of ways and results in lifelong harm. Ohio State has downplayed the abuse we have suffered and would like you to believe that the abuse involved a bit of groping, grabbing, or voyeurism. But many of us were subjected to repeated genital manipulation, sometimes to the point of erection or ejaculation, as well as medically unnecessary digital penetration of our rectums. And some of us suffered anal rape.
We have attached the stories of three student‐athletes to illustrate the savagery of the crimes, which would and should not have happened—if only had the University acted quickly and decisively to report, discipline, or otherwise rid itself of Dr. Strauss.
To date, the University has not been held accountable for its cover‐up, outlined in the Perkins Coie Report it commissioned. The Report shows that the University knew about Dr. Strauss’s predation as early as 1979, but didn’t take any action at all until 1996, and, even then, failed to take sufficient action to ensure student safety and prevent future harm. This is a travesty.
Imagine our pain when we learned that the University could have easily prevented the abuse we suffered had it simply taken advantage of the many opportunities to address Dr. Strauss’s known sexual abuse. Instead, it let him quietly retire and then gilded his legacy with emeritus status for another twenty years.
We are concurrently asking the NCAA to take action—as it did with respect to Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse at Penn State—noting that the number of victims at Ohio State is exponentially greater than it was at Penn State and that the cover‐up lasted longer, stretching over forty years. We also requested that the NCAA put aside all money collected from Ohio State into a newly established "Victims Compensation Fund" to ensure that student‐athletes are protected from predator coaches, trainers, authority figures, and member institutions that cover‐up for and enable predatory behavior that may be criminal.
We are asking the Big Ten to take action, just as it did after the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. When the Big Ten intervened in the Penn State matter, a reported $13 million was donated to established charitable donations. Similarly, we ask the Big Ten to hold Ohio State accountable by directing conference revenue to victims of Richard Strauss’s sexual abuse. Ohio State steadfastly refuses to do the right thing for victims. Further, former University President Michael Drake and current President Kristina Johnson have done little to hold those responsible for this cover‐up accountable or to take action to protect future generations of students from sexual abuse. With leadership from The Council of Presidents and Chancellors, the Big Ten Conference must step in to address the problem in a meaningful way, both to prevent this from ever happening again and to bring closure to the innocent survivors of serial sexual abuse committed by Ohio State’s former team doctor.