Ohio State will pay $41 million to settle sex-abuse victims’ lawsuits
About 350 former athletes and other men had sued the school for failing to stop a doctor despite concerns raised during his tenure.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University will pay about $41 million to settle a dozen lawsuits by 162 men alleging decades-old sexual abuse and mistreatment by a team doctor, Richard Strauss.
About 350 former athletes and other men had sued the school for failing to stop the late doctor despite concerns raised during his tenure. The university first announced a settlement with some of them in March, but the cost wasn’t made public until Friday.
“The university of decades ago failed these individuals — our students, alumni and members of the Buckeye community,” university President Michael V. Drake said in a written statement. “Nothing can undo the wrongs of the past, but we must do what we can today to work toward restorative justice.”
A special overseer independent of the university is expected to help allocate varying payments to the men based on their experiences and the harm done, aided by a three-person panel of experts evaluating claims.
“The process will account for wide variations in abuse and provide a pathway for survivor healing,” Richard Schulte, one of the lawyers for the men, said in the university’s statement.
The school agreed to pay up to $500,000 for the costs of administering the $40.9 million settlement fund. The money will come from Ohio State’s discretionary funding, not tuition or taxpayer or donor money, according to the university.
Lawyers for scores more men with lawsuits still pending against Ohio State have pushed to continue litigation and accused the university of not negotiating in good faith with them, which school spokesmen emphatically deny.
Some of those plaintiffs have argued publicly that any settlement should be costly enough to convey that campuses can’t let such scenarios happen again, and have suggested they deserve compensation comparable to other major sexual abuse scandals in higher education, such as Michigan State’s $500 million settlement for 500-plus female victims of imprisoned sports doctor Larry Nassar.
The men can’t confront Strauss, who died in 2005. No one has publicly defended him since the allegations arose two years ago and prompted Ohio State to have a law firm investigate.
Those investigators concluded Strauss sexually abused young men between 1979 and 1997 in medical exams at campus athletic facilities, the student health center, his off-campus men’s clinic and his home. Though concerns were raised with athletics and student health officials, none reported him to law enforcement or regulators.
The State Medical Board of Ohio investigated him in 1996 after he complained about another physician, but credible evidence about Strauss’ sexual misconduct was ignored then and, inexplicably, no action was taken against him, according to a state panel’s review of that old investigation.