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.