Victims of sexual abuse by former Ohio State physician Richard Strauss released a letter calling on the NCAA and Big Ten conference Wednesday to investigate Ohio State’s handling of the case.
In a press conference Wednesday, Strauss victims Mike Schyck, Mike Murphy and an anonymous John Doe, all parties in current lawsuits against the university, asked the organizations through letters to look into Ohio State’s role in covering up Strauss’ abuse.
“OSU as an institution is failing to act on its commitment to justice for hundreds if not thousands of Strauss survivors and failing to codify policy changes that will make sure a decades long reign of terror of sexual abuse like Strauss’ cannot happen again,” Scott Smith, an attorney representing multiple Strauss victims in lawsuits against the university, said.
Strauss was the team doctor for 17 varsity sports and a physician at the university’s Student Wellness Center from 1978-98. An independent investigation in May 2019 found that Strauss abused at least 177 students and student-athletes during his tenure and that Ohio State failed to act.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
In a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors, Strauss victims asked the organization to investigate Ohio State for its failure to address and prevent Strauss’ sexual abuse, assault and rape of student-athletes. The letter claims the university has not fully acknowledged its responsibility.
“Sexual abuse is an offense that violates individuals in the worst of ways and results in lifelong harm. Ohio State has downplayed the abuse we have suffered and would like you to believe that the abuse involved a bit of groping, grabbing, or voyeurism,” the letter reads.
A university spokesperson referred The Lantern to a Tuesday press release announcing a $5.8 million settlement with 23 additional Strauss victims. The new settlement adds to the 162 victims who settled with the university in May, bringing the total settlement amount to $46.7 million.
Smith said the intent of asking the Big Ten and NCAA to investigate Ohio State was not a legal maneuver to help lawsuits against the university; he said what the victims want primarily is to prevent the sexual abuse that they experienced from happening to any other student-athlete.
“We are not looking for punitive action. We are looking for action of a positive movement getting this rectified. Ohio State’s not doing anything.” Smith said.
Michael Schyck, an Ohio State wrestler from 1990-93, said NCAA and Big Ten intervention in the case would not be unprecedented — pointing to sanctions placed on Jerry Sandusky and Penn State University after a 2018 sexual abuse investigation into the coach.
“We’re asking them to do the same thing for us. But I think OSU’s fine should be for much more money than that because OSU allowed many more students to be harmed and, incredibly, the cover-up went on for two decades,” Schyck said in a press release Wednesday.
He mentioned in the press conference specifically the types of abuse many victims reported: anal rape, oral rape, digital penetration, and other forms of sexual assault and rape.
“Help me understand why when you hear those words, that the NCAA or the Big Ten hasn’t decided to jump in to do something about this,” Schyck said.
Michael Murphy, who pole vaulted for Ohio State’s track and field team in the late ’80s, said the length of time that has elapsed since his abuse, it still affects him in his daily life.
“At the family level, I have young children that are college age and wanted to go to Ohio State,” Murphy said. “I had to openly discourage them from going there. I don’t feel that I could trust their safety. It’s a large institution and with my experiences there, I felt it’s very easy for very heinous things to get swept under the rug.”
In June, the U.S. Southern District Court of Ohio unsealed an amended complaint against the university that included testimony from Ohio State employees — including the former head team physician and director of sports medicine — admitting they were aware of complaints against Strauss.
When asked about the coaches and university administration publicly denying prior knowledge of Strauss’ sexual abuse, Schyck said those claims should not discredit the more than 300 men who have come forward with their stories and testimony suggesting otherwise.
“By saying that ‘No one ever came to me and said that we told them about being sexually abused or we were molested,’ — I don’t think those words were ever even used back then,” Schyck said. “I don’t think we knew what the heck that was, but that doesn’t discount the fact things were happening and people knew.”