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Waters speaks: Appears on ‘Today,’ ‘Good Morning America’

Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters
Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Ousted Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters broke his silence following his termination in late July after appearing on two national television shows Tuesday morning. He ultimately said he’d like his job back.

“I love Ohio State and I would love an opportunity to work with the university to improve the culture,”  Waters said during a live interview on “Today” when asked if he would seek reinstatement.

Waters said the investigation that ultimately lead to his firing was one-sided and inaccurately portrayed the culture of the band during a pre-recorded interview with “Good Morning America.”

“The fact that this report makes that the culture is some type of ‘Animal House’ fraternity is just not accurate,” Waters said. “I think I was a victim of a rush to judgement and a very inaccurate report.”

Waters was fired in late July after a two-month OSU investigation into a complaint from a band member’s parent found “serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment within the marching band,” according to an OSU statement. The administration found that Waters was either aware of or reasonably should have been aware of that culture but did not do enough to address it.

A few examples of issues listed in the report include an annual band practice in Ohio Stadium that Waters attended where students were expected to march in only their underwear, sexually explicit nicknames that were given to new band members and quizzes that were given to new band members with sexually explicit questions.

“I was aware and I took great steps to eliminate them…we have eliminated all of those things,” Waters said on “Today.” “We have eliminated the ‘midnight ramp,’ we have eliminated the rookie quizzes. Let me be very clear that harassment of any type is not tolerated and should not be tolerated and we have, as a staff and as a leadership team, taken steps to eliminate those behaviors.”

Although Waters did not directly answer if he’d seek legal action against the university on “Today,” he and his attorney said they haven’t considered what, if any legal steps to take, The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday.

“It’s not my action to take to reverse the dismissal,” he said during the Dispatch interview. “I am here telling my story, and I am here to set the record straight after the report was issued. And those decision-makers will have to come to that conclusion.”

Meanwhile, OSU named two interim directors Monday.

OSU spokesman Gary Lewis did not say whether the university has considered reinstating Waters when asked in a Tuesday email. He instead provided a document that restated previously released facts about the investigation.

That document noted the marching band is not a club or organization, but an academic course that offers credit. The document also said OSU could have potentially lost federal funding if Waters had not been promptly fired after initial complaints listed in the investigation were made, because of Title IX.

Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal funding.

Despite multiple public records requests, Lewis had not provided updates on the status of band leadership employment records, interim leadership salary information and further details regarding the search for a permanent director as of Tuesday morning.


  1. I watched the Today Show interview and Savannah seemed as out of touch as the report.
    After Mr. Waters stated that he couldn’t turn the culture on a dime. She said… “but you’re the band director, just say stop.” It is going to take time to change decades of culture and change activities that takes place in the ranks of the band.

    The report makes it sound as if you are assigned a dirty name and got the song book in the mail with your orientation pack.

  2. Former 4-yr. OSU bandsman

    The active band should not take the field until Jon Waters is reinstated. This circumstance is abuse of due process based on lies, half truths and innuendo–hardly a sound foundation for firing a loyal employee and devoted Buckeye. MESSAGE TO THE ACTIVE BAND: Civics 101–assert your rights and privileges. The administration works for you. You pay the bills. If you take the field, you will become a tool of this egregious misconduct and no better than the people who are mistreating Jon. Silence and acquiescence is not golden.

    As a former bandsman, I like to think that I would have taken such a stand, but I was not confronted with such university mistreatment of a band director. The coaches and university were always respectful to and appreciative of the band during my tenure.

  3. I’m still incredulous that in a day where all kinds of expletives and sexed up everything is the norm in the music industry, his not doing enough to stop a “sexualized culture” got him fired. This harks back to the moral tone of the 1950s, where even then, while the band director probably wasn’t supposed to appear so unseemly, I strongly suspect that the sports coaches, and for certain, the military were using such terminology, hazing like crazy, because in those venues the team is expected to win, however it gets done. I don’t think anything Jon Waters could have done would change this overnight.

  4. Savannath is why I stopped watching the Today Show!!! Matt Lauer is a much better interviewer. Tamron Hall or Natalie Morales should have gotten that job and why I watch their hour of Today. LOVE Willie Geist’s father on CBS Sunday Morning. I hope his health is better!!!

  5. For all of you complaining about the President firing him – let’s look at reality – this investigation didn’t happen overnight – The President only makes a decision like this after his support staff advise him based on what they know – that would be the head of the Compliance and Integrity Office – (6-figure bonus man himself) Geoff Chatas and AJ Douglass (VP of HR) – the biggest question I have, if this was a personnel matter, why was this not reviewed and implemented by the Office of Human Resources instead of the Compliance Office? What’s the point in having an HR office at the University if they don’t make personnel decisions? These people told the President what to say and what to do – those are the people that need fired!!! These offices have become a joke.

  6. To Anonymous at 8:14 AM.

    I agree with your comments about the firing didn’t happen overnight. However, I’m going to go out on a limb to say that the Compliance and Integrity Office helped with this matter because that’s what they do. Where I work, the Compliance office is kind of the backbone of the company. They are the ones making sure everything is running smoothly and properly. While the HR department does deal with personnel, they are the ones who essentially hold all of the personnel information. I highly doubt the HR office has any authority over this kind of stuff.

  7. I love that all the alumni are on these comment sections crying. Here is the deal. OSU is not going to risk title 9 violations, Cleary Act violation (unrelated I know) or national reputation or for anyone. No mater how many alumni donations are are stake, no matter how many “open letters from j-boobs”, no football coach is immune, no president is immune, no band coach is immune. OSU Will drop anyone they need to keep this university’s image good if you screw up. Where have you people been the last 5 years? read the dang news? No one cares about the guy who makes cool shapes on a football field, he looks like a wizard in his university photo holding that wand. Open your eyes, OSU Is a business, they don’t want the government or any agency breathing down the university’s neck nor do they want to risk incoming student numbers or government funding. Get over it and donate your yearly $200 to your masters program.

    Just like Gee and Tressel, you get an ego in the job, think you can say or do anything you want, you are done.

    Your 2 cents on the issue is about as valuable as your alumni dollars. Unless you’re Wexner, no one cares about your opinion or any opinion of a faculty member, staff member or alumni. Go Bucks!

  8. The major problem I have with all of this is that there is no way the OSU administration, for decades, did not know of any of this. How come the School of Music administration is getting a pass? Jon Waters is the band director…..he should not have been the one implementing policy changes. That is what the director and higher ups in the School of Music should have been doing. I just don’t get why Jon Waters is the only one being held to this high standard of being the only one who should of known this was wrong and needed to be changed.

  9. The so called higher up people should look at every bit of Proof before making Any judgement..
    Instead there worryed about there own A–.
    The hell with the Truth
    . Mr Water’sshould be reinstated

  10. Dr. Waters is a decent man treated indecently by OSU.

    Bill Curtis, 64

  11. As much as I love OSU and the BDBITL, I don’t see how this is national news with all the other things going on in the world.

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