Ohio State fired its head cheerleading coach Monday after an investigation determined she failed to disassociate herself and the program with two former assistant coaches fired in May for sexual harassment.
Lenee Buchman, who was OSU’s head cheerleading coach since July 2009, was terminated Monday afternoon in a meeting with OSU athletic director Gene Smith, according to a letter obtained by The Lantern.
In an email sent to Buchman by Smith Friday, which was also obtained by The Lantern, Smith wrote that although an investigation by OSU human resources did not find that Buchman retaliated against a student by dismissing him from the team this summer, a report from that investigation exposed “several serious lapses of judgment and leadership” by Buchman.
One of those lapses occurred in August, Smith wrote, when she participated in a cheer camp run by Dana Bumbrey, one of the two assistant coaches fired in May after an OSU investigation found “sufficient evidence” he and Eddie Hollins had violated OSU’s Sexual Harassment Policy.
“Though I know that the camp was not run by Ohio State, you took our students and brand there with you,” Smith wrote to Buchman. “All the while, you knew the nature of the behavior Mr. Bumbrey had been engaged in, that Ohio State had dismissed him just a few months earlier, and that the university had emphatically chosen to disassociate itself from him and his damaging behavior.”
Another lapse occurred Sept. 9, Smith wrote, when Hollins showed up at a cheerleading practice. Smith wrote that although Hollins’ appearance was unexpected, Buchman did not approach Hollins or ask him to leave.
“When an assistant that had been fired for sexual harassment shows up at a team practice, it is obvious what is expected of a head coach,” Smith wrote.
OSU spokesman Gary Lewis confirmed to The Lantern Nov. 17 that Hollins appeared at one OSU practice this summer, but Lewis said at the time Hollins was “asked to leave immediately.”
Smith wrote that because Buchman had aligned herself with Bumbrey after his termination and had not taken immediate action when Hollins appeared at practice, Buchman “failed to demonstrate the leadership and courage expected of our head coaches.”
An OSU athletics spokesman declined The Lantern’s request Tuesday for additional comment from Smith. Buchman did not respond to The Lantern’s request for comment Monday.
John Camillus, the attorney of former OSU cheerleader Cody Ellis, told The Lantern his client, who was dismissed from the team by Buchman in August, reported to Smith and others Aug. 12 that Buchman had retaliated against him for reporting sexual harassment after Hollins sent Ellis sexually suggestive text messages on July 14, 2012.
Smith, however, wrote in the letter to Buchman that he and Miechelle Willis, OSU’s executive associate athletics director for student services and sports administration, agreed that based on a review of the student’s dismissal, Buchman did not retaliate against Ellis.
“We are both persuaded that the student’s past behavior — including persistent derogatory and offensive conduct toward teammates and others, the student’s negative attitude and other misconduct — all amply support the student’s dismissal from the team,” Smith wrote.
OSU’s investigation into Bumbrey and Hollins began after OSU received an anonymous complaint via EthicsPoint, OSU’s anonymous reporting line, that Hollins and Bumbrey had created a hostile environment by sexually harassing cheerleaders, according to investigation records obtained by The Lantern. The report alleged Hollins had specifically harassed male cheerleaders, while Bumbrey had specifically harassed female cheerleaders.
Before that, Ellis initially reported to Buchman in July 2012 that he had received sexually suggestive text messages, Camillus said.
When interviewed April 24 as part of OSU’s investigation into Bumbrey and Hollins, Buchman confirmed a male cheerleader reported to her sometime around July 2012 that he had received “inappropriate text messages” from Hollins. Buchman told investigators after receiving the report from the cheerleader, she addressed Hollins directly and requested he cease sending any personal text messages to students. She did not, however, report the complaint to OSU’s Office of Human Resources.
A June 20 letter to Buchman from Heaton said Buchman “did not follow the proper channels” of reporting the initial complaint from an OSU cheerleader and instead tried to resolve the issues on her own. The letter stated OSU coaches are “required to report any complaints that a reasonable person would believe to be sexual harassment.”
Buchman was retained by the university at the time. She was required to attend a sexual education harassment session with her team, which Lewis said was completed July 26, but she also received a 1 percent salary raise Aug. 23 to $43,003 from her former salary of $42,577.
Steve Chorba, who was hired along with Ray Sharp as one of two new assistant coaches this summer to replace Hollins and Bumbrey, was named interim head coach Monday, OSU athletics spokesman Dan Wallenberg confirmed Monday. Chorba previously served as the head coach of Illinois State University’s cheerleading team.