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Jonathan Waters’ return to Ohio State full of emotions

Former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters tears up after the halftime show against Kent State on Sept. 13 at Ohio Stadium. Waters directed the alumni band at points throughout the game but did not march in the halftime show. Credit: Chelsea Spears / Multimedia editor

Former OSU Marching Band director Jonathan Waters tears up after the halftime show against Kent State on Sept. 13 at Ohio Stadium. Waters directed the alumni band at points throughout the game but did not march in the halftime show. Credit: Chelsea Spears / Multimedia editor

Though Jonathan Waters was fired from his position as director of the Ohio State Marching Band, he didn’t stay away from Ohio Stadium for long.

At OSU’s blowout 66-0 victory against Kent State on Saturday, Waters returned to the stadium not as an employee, but as a marching band alumnus. And though he seemed filled with passion and joy as he conducted the alumni band in performing “Hang On Sloopy,” it was still a roller coaster of emotions.

“This is a very emotional day for me.” Waters told Lantern TV of his return to Ohio Stadium. “I’ve been in this building for 20 years as a student and as a staff member. The tears streamed down my face during ‘Carmen Ohio’ and it’s just been overwhelming.”

Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month investigation into the band found a culture conducive to sexual harassment. It was determined Waters was aware or reasonably should have been aware of that culture and did not do enough to change it.

The former director was greeted by a plethora of marching band alumni and current members Saturday, who wanted to greet him and show their support.

“I’ve gotten so many hugs and so many handshakes,” Waters said. “It’s been just tremendous. That’s been the true culture of the Ohio State Marching Band. This is a family.”

It was announced during Saturday’s game that 800-900 marching band alumni were in attendance Saturday afternoon. Most alumni band members seemed to be wearing a pin on the left side of their chest with the initials “JW,” in support of Waters.

“We came in this morning for the rehearsal and they were put out to get if they wanted us to wear one. So, I think it’s pretty obvious that everyone wanted to wear one in support of Jon.” said Rod Miller, a marching band alumnus from the class of 1987.

Waters’ supporters have also gone beyond wearing pins. A number of events and fundraisers have been organized since he was dismissed, with the hopes of supporting him during his unemployment. Many also have called for his reinstatement.

“Financially, I have supported him,” said Stephanie Gaiser, a marching band alumna and member of the class of 1980. “There’s a lot of fundraisers, and we’ll continue to do that. As well as continuing to write letters and to support him throughout all of the legal processes.”

Though OSU has repeatedly made it clear that Waters will not get his job back, he has not given up his mission to once again become the director of the OSU Marching Band. He has also maintained that he is not entertaining offers from any other institutions at this time.

“We’re not looking at that at this point. This was my dream job.” he said Saturday. “We’re fighting to clear the names of these alums, these current students and myself as well. That struggle is not done yet, and we want to exhaust those possibilities.”

Waters’ persistence in retaining his job could soon wear thin as the university continues to look for his replacement. Either a legal battle or employment elsewhere is almost inevitable for the former marching band leader, although he has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to have to sue unless all other possible attempts to get reinstated are exhausted. .

OSU President Michael Drake and the Board of Trustees, however, have declined to reconsider his case.

Regardless of what decision Waters makes as far as legal action goes, the university plans on naming a new director by February. It has named University Bands director Russel Mikkelson and associate director Scott Jones as interim directors until that permanent director is selected.


  1. I hope they raise a lot of money for Waters. And I hope the girl who was raped in November 2013 sues him for everything he has. She was raped AFTER the March 2013 sexual harassment incident where Waters was told by OSU attorneys that he could not retaliate against another girl who complained about sexual harassment and he agreed to attend University training to prevent sexual harassment but would not do so. He only went for training AFTER the November rape. Read the University report, footnote 7, page 12. And Waters said the training did result in open conversations. GEE, maybe if he did the training when he said he would, the second girl wouldn’t have been raped. I cry more for her than for Waters.

  2. The University did the right thing by firing him. I know I’m in the minority, but I support their decision.

  3. I do not condone sexual assault of any kind. No criminal charges were filed regarding this rape, which is the legal standard. Jon Waters is not responsible for the actions of students off campus, and could not be sued for them. All the training in the world for Jon could not prevent what young adults do when they are not at Band events.

  4. A friend of mine has been reading the OSU Trustees’ ByLaws.

    BOARD of TRUSTEES 3335-23-05. Initiation and investigation of code violations.


    “1.Role of the University. a. he Ohio State University police or other appropriate law enforcement agency shall have primary responsibility for the investigation of acts that involve suspected violation of federal, state, local laws or applicable university policies.”

    Where did Chris Glaros get his authority to prepare the Trustees’ so-called “Glaros Report” internal investigation? Seems to me that if anyone broke the law, it was the Trustees. Whoops. Reinstate Jon Waters and Fire the OSU Board of Trustees. This wasn’t merely a rush to judgment by the Trustees, this was outright illegal conduct.

  5. I was proud to be among the 700+ TBDBITL band alumni who marched Saturday in the shoe. It was a truly moving moment when, without fanfare or announcement, Jon Waters climbed the podium to direct us in HANG ON SLOOPY. We all stood and cheered Jon, then watched as wave after wave of stadium fans began standing and cheering once they realized that Jon was on the podium. It appeared that fans stood all the way around the closed end of the shoe to the 50 yard line, and all the way up in C Deck. In all my days in Ohio Stadium, I have rarely, if ever, seen such a spontaneous outpouring of affection.

    The OSU Trustees got it wrong and must reinstate Jon Waters, or resign themselves. Ohio State University should not become known for thuggery.

    “Our honor defend, we will fight to the end.”

    Michael McKibben
    Chairman & Founder
    Leader Technologies, Inc.
    OSUMB TBDBITL ’69-’72
    F-Row, Q-Row, Asst. Squad Leader

  6. Yeah, sure..........

    Maybe you should check your “facts” Concerned Mother. The ALLEGED rape occurred at an off campus party that had nothing to do with the band. The girl apparently did not file charges as she was too drunk to have known whether she consented to sex or not. Mr. Waters handled this incident appropriately and informed the university. The girl declined to press charges. What was Mr. Waters supposed to do? Hunt down the perp himself? I believe that he was a band member and was discharged from the band.

    The alleged harassment occurred in the Athletic Band. Two people of the opposite sex on a road trip were in the same room (which is not allowed) and the girl apparently was harassed. Both members were suspended from the band since both broke rules. The girl hated the band “culture” so much that she had her parents intervene to make sure she was reinstated.

    People like you, that have taken the Glaros report as gospel, are the real problem. I suggest you read the entire 103 pages of the TBDBITL alumni report (four times the length of the Glaros report because it includes witness names, citations and FACTS) before you make judgment against Mr. Waters, the current band and thousands of band alumni.

  7. Wow…. a lot of misconceptions and just plain ignorance is out there. If the act off campus, off school time is held up as a reason to get rid of an employee, imagine that standard being used for all places of employment!

    When the only source of information used to create an opinion is a report that has been shown to be poorly conceived and researched, it is understandable that some would have that view. However, when witness after witness comes forward to declare that their testimony was twisted and misrepresented, as well as some have said their testimony was never used, then it is time to reconsider. Additionally, when only 9 people were interviewed and most of those completely disagree with the conclusion gleaned from their words……. well, you get the kind of reaction that has occurred. Could 1,000’s of highly successful; highly motivated; highly educated people all be wrong? Statistically, the probability of that occurring has got to be astronomical.

    Look at ALL the testimony. ALL the data. Check all the motives of the players. Jon was cleaning up the behaviors and traditions. Fact. If it wasn’t fast enough, then someone should have told him that. But, that never happened. His supervisor gave him an excellent review signed June 2, 2014. Part of that review mentioned this very thing. And, this supervisor has witnessed the program for years, not 2 months.

    Lastly, the results of his hard work has been shown all over world. He has participated in millions of dollars being raised for the university at large. He helped the previous director finish out his final year when health reasons were taking a toll. He, at the very least, EARNED the right to a hearing. A meeting with the boss that fired him. Maybe probation or some sort of suspension (which, I disagree with, but he at least earned those). He got none of that. That is low. Due process. We want it for ourselves, we should expect it for others.

  8. Dear Yeah Sure, my point is that Waters had been told to attend training and he agreed to, but did not. We do not what would have happened had he attended training. What is his excuse? It hardly paints a picture of someone who cares. And the tape of him blasting a kid? Which he lied about? It speaks very poorly of his sense of personal accountability when it comes to him. As to him entertaining offers from other schools – I doubt anyone is approaching him.

  9. lolnewpresidentfromcali

    The new president needs to establish his authority by firing Walters. Just as what POTUS did. I guess there is a lot similarity between this new president for OSU and POTUS.

  10. To Concerned Mother…

    As a long time director of Performing Artists, I am going to point out two things to you:

    1) You seem to be forgetting all of the young people that are being spoken about here are ADULTS… legal adults who can make their own decisions. If a rape happened, it is the right of the young woman to choose to press charges. It is also her right to say “Well… S**t… I don’t really remember because I was drinking”, as it is for her to cry to her peers and her leaders and say “Help me”. It is then the responsibility of the leaders …. If that is what she chose… to assess the situation and take appropriate action. If an artist comes to me and says “this assault happened”, it is my job to report it. If that same artist comes to me and then says “don’t say anything, I don’t want to press charges” I will report it… but I will also not press the issue or badger said individual into talking about things they have told me to drop.

    “As to him entertaining offers from other schools – I doubt anyone is approaching him.”

    2) Someone as talented as Dr. Waters WILL be sought after. You might as well get used to that concept. Those of us who are not… clouded?… by the drive to create a villian around every corner will see Dr. Waters for what he is: a STUNNINGLY talented band director who had made mistakes and who was railroaded by a new President who has a number of skeletons in his closet and wants to make his presence known. It takes at Least a year to find someone of a similar caliber as Dr. Waters…. but they will have a new director by Feb.? Only if this new president has a person in mind waiting in the wings.

    If you are truly a “concerned parent”, I hope your child never faces the loss of a teacher or leader that your child adores and would go to the ends of the earth for… because it is my belief you and your child will come to see a parting of the ways if you can’t learn to understand both sides of the barrier.

  11. Dear tbdbitlredhead,

    “Dr.” Waters? Care to explain to me the Dr.? I did not think that MR. Waters has a Ph.d.

    While I do not personally wouldn’t make a big deal over having a Ph.d in this context, I am curious why you say Dr. Waters.

  12. Concerned Mother… I apologize. Mr. Waters has three degrees, and has been called Dr. Waters by several of my band directing friends and co-workers.

    However, I like your dodge. Are you going to speak to either of my other two comments? Or are you going to use the fact that I used the wrong label as a red herring to NOT answer my other statements…. which the change of a TITLE does NOTHING to.

  13. Concerned Mother – ” I hope the girl who was raped in November 2013 sues him for everything he has. She was raped AFTER the March 2013 sexual harassment incident where Waters was told by OSU attorneys that he could not retaliate against another girl who complained about sexual harassment and he agreed to attend University training to prevent sexual harassment but would not do so. He only went for training AFTER the November rape. ”

    How is Waters responsible for an incident occurring at an off campus party completely out of Band time? How can that be pinned on the Band or its Director? By your (il)logic, every faculty member teaching any class will be responsible for the activities of every student in that class once they leave the classroom.
    Perhaps your concern would be better focused on asking why the student’s mother didn’t teach her daughter more about the perils of drinking into unconsciousness? Didn’t you ever wonder why no police report was filed? Because to do so requires the victim to be able to remember something, anything, about the assault. It’s very sad that this happened, but there is no way that either you or the University can blame Jon Waters for it.

  14. Dear Anonymous at 10:11. Perhaps the girl went to a typical high school, where band members were well behaved and didn’t drink to excess to excess or were encouraged by peer pressure to march in front of others at night in their underwear. Then the girl goes off to OSU, joins the band, where her mother has ever expectation that behavior will be the same. Instead, there is a band director who is oblivious to sexual harassment, and related issues.

    Dear tbdbitlredhead,

    Personally, I do not care if Mr. Waters has one degree or three. But when his supporters refer to him as Dr. Waters, it is indicative that they are living in another reality world. No, two masters and a bachelors do not equal a Dr. People in academia realize the difference. Blindly supporting him, without recognizing reality, does not lead credibility to his cause.

    I do not think that Mr. Waters was an evil man, just that he was oblivious to sexual harassment issues. it is appalling that he had a show devoted to Michael Jackson, a known pedophile. Yes, Michael Jackson was a talented musician, but his behavior would lead a person sensitive to sexual harassment issues to question whether it was appropriate to honor Michael Jackson in a college context. Being popular is not enough. College leader must lead. Mr. Waters chose not to.

  15. Buckeye in the West

    First, I think “Concerned Mother” should read the following:


    And appendixes here: http://tbdbitl.com/

    Each of the allegations, in OSU’s “investigative report” are commented upon.

    Appendix 7 should be read, as it indicates how many people were affected by the so called “investigation”. This is not just about Jon Waters, but more about 4000+ other peo0ple, as well.

    I thought is was brave fro Jon Waters to return to campus, in light of what happened. The thing is that he was welcomed by thousands of people Saturday. Meanwhile, President Drake was booed by thousands of people.

    The university’s failure to discuss the report, subsequent actions, is only convincing more and more people that OSU is further in the wrong. This story is not going to go away, as more local media keeps pushing for answers.

    A law suit, though not optimal, will finally uncover the truth. And when it does, it will be very ugly for the OSU administration. By the way, lying in court is a felony, in the world outside OSU’s ivory tower.

  16. Concerned Mother, if the girl’s mother didn’t want her exposed to any debauchery, she shouldn’t have sent her to one of the biggest party schools in the state. Any parent who believes a college atmosphere will match that of a high school is beyond naive. The sexual harassment outside of the OSU marching band FAR exceeds anything that happened inside of it.

    You claim that band members were peer pressured into marching in their underwear, but plenty of members did not participate in the midnight ramp without any consequence. The first thing band members hear their first time making the band is that if anyone does anything that makes them uncomfortable, they should immediately report it to the directing staff. So if someone felt uncomfortable and didn’t say anything, it wasn’t because the channels of communication were closed.

    And as for your claim that you can tell that Jon is misguided because he organized a Michael Jackson halftime show, many people have to sign off on the shows before they can be performed, including Gene Smith. If you want to focus your energy on getting Gene Smith fired, you have a very large group of people who’d love to help you.

  17. I agree having a Michael Jackson tribute was bizarre and bothersome. But (1.) that is something the school’s president and Board of Trustees should’ve jumped on immediately; they didn’t, so they must have approved of it either before or after; and (2.) it really doesn’t relate to a sexualized culture (welcome to college, by the way) dealing with heterosexual adults (as all the students are at least 18 and there appears to be no homosexual aspect to the “sexualized culture).

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