Ohio State University announced the details of settlement reached with over 160 men who say they were sexually abused by Richard Strauss, a long-time athletic team physician at the school.
The $40.9 million settlement was reached with 162 male survivors. It covers 12 lawsuits related to abuse allegedly perpetrated by Strauss, who was employed by the university from 1978 until 1998.
An independent investigation launched by the University found in 2019 that the physician abused students and “university administration failed to appropriately respond at the time,” the university said in a Friday statement.
The report found that personnel at the university knew what Strauss was doing as early as 1979.
“The university of decades ago failed these individuals – our students, alumni and members of the Buckeye community,” said President Michael V. Drake said. “Nothing can undo the wrongs of the past, but we must do what we can today to work toward restorative justice.”
“Our focus will always be on the survivors. We know it took great courage for them to come forward, and we are grateful,” he added.
The amounts that survivors receive from the university will be awarded “based on the harm and damages experienced by each survivor,” the Friday statement explained.
“Working with Ohio State, we established an independent confidential process to evaluate each claim individually. The process will account for wide variations in abuse and provide a pathway for survivor healing. One hundred percent of 162 survivors in this settlement decided against further litigation and agreed to participate. The participation rate speaks to the quality of this settlement,” Rick Schulte, lead negotiator for the plaintiffs’ firms, said.
About 350 men have sued the school for not stopping Strauss despite concerns released during his tenure at the university, NBC News reported.
The school said that it has agreed to pay up to $500,000 to administer the settlement fund, which will not come from taxpayer, tuition or specific donor funds.
There are still lawsuits continuing against the university.
“Ohio State 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 Friday statement said.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has previously denied allegations that he failed to stop Strauss from sexually abusing student-athletes at the university when he served as a wrestling coach there.
A professional referee says in a lawsuit filed last November that Strauss masturbated in front of him in a shower after a wrestling match at Ohio State University, and that he reported the encounter directly to Jordan, who was then the assistant coach.
“Yeah, that’s Strauss,” Jordan and then-head coach Russ Hellickson replied, according to the lawsuit, when the referee, identified in court papers as John Doe 42, told them about the incident. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Ohio, implies that Jordan’s response to the incident, which the referee said happened in 1994, was essentially a shrug.
John Doe 42 is the second person to say he told Jordan directly about either being approached or molested by Strauss.
John Doe 42 said that when he informed Jordan and Hellickson about what happened, their response was, “Yeah, yeah, we know.”
“It was common knowledge what Strauss was doing, so the attitude was it is what it is,” he told NBC News. “I wish Jim, and Russ, too, would stand up and do the right thing and admit they knew what Strauss was doing, because everybody knew what he was doing to the wrestlers. What was a shock to me is that Strauss tried to do that to me. He was breaking new ground by going after a ref.”
Former Ohio State wrestler Dunyasha Yetts was the first person to say he spoke to Jordan directly about Strauss. He previously described how he went to see Strauss for a thumb injury, and when the doctor tried to pull down his pants, he stormed out and complained to Jordan and Hellickson.
“It’s good that people are starting to come forward and say the truth, which is that Jordan and the other coaches knew what was going on and they blew it off,” Yetts told NBC News.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.