Wrestlers file lawsuit against Ohio State, claiming a 'cesspool of deviancy'

We may find out how closely Jim Jordan was paying attention.

We will definitely find out how closely other universities are paying attention.

Four former Ohio State wrestlers have filed a federal class-action lawsuit claiming the school knew former team doctor Richard Strauss sexually abused athletes more than 20 years ago, and didn’t do anything to stop it.

The suit goes far beyond wrestling, alleging students in 14 sports were subject to “excessive and medically unnecessary fondling, touching, and groping.” But the attention will continue to gravitate to Jordan, the powerful congressman from Ohio who coached wrestling at the school before his political career took off. Jordan is not named in the suit, however a lawyer for the accusers told NBC News he expected him to be called as a witness.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbour, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) questions FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled "Oversight of FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaks at a news conference with 10 other Republican members of Congress announcing their introduction of a U.S. House resolution alleging misconduct in the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation and requesting the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the law enforcement probes into the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) arrives ahead of FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC) speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbour, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) talks with House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (L) on the floor prior to the start of the election for the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the House Chamber in Washington October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (L), and Jim Jordan (R-OH) listen to FBI Director Christopher Wray U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testify during a House Judiciary Committee hearing June 28, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on oversight of FBI and DOJ actions surrounding the 2016 election. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 28, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. While scheduled to discuss the Justice Department Inspector general report released this month on the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Republicans were expected to use the opportunity to press for release of documents subpoenaed by the committee that detail FBI actions in 2016. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18: Members of the House Freedom Caucus (L-R) Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) arrive for a House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol December 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06: Members of the House Freedom Caucus, (L-R) Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) participate in a Politico Playbook Breakfast interview at the W Hotel on April 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 15: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks during the House Freedom Caucus news conference on Affordable Care Act replacement legislation on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 29: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, talks with reporters after the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on November 29, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 4: House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaks during a live television broadcast on Capitol Hill, December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. The House voted to formally send their tax reform bill to a joint conference committee with the Senate, where they will try to merge the two bills. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 18: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks with reporters as he leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES ? MARCH 27: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ind., speaks during the Republican Study Committee news conference to unveil a FY2013 budget proposal on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 26: From left, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, arrive for the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19: (L-R), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) confer with each other during a House Oversight Committee hearing entitled 'Reviews of the Benghazi Attack and Unanswered Questions,' in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is continuing to lead the GOP investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 11: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks during a news conference introducing H.R.4262, 'The Control America's Purse-strings to Deliver a Better Tomorrow (CAP the DEBT) Act' on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)

“If I were Jim Jordan, I would be very concerned about this lawsuit,” says Katie Phang, partner at Berger Singerman in Miami. “The plaintiffs will want to depose him, and if he tries to avoid being deposed, a judge will most likely force him to sit for a deposition.”

It may not come to that, as there’s always a chance Ohio State will settle. However, this is a class-action suit, meaning other plaintiffs could join. That could pile up the testimony saying Jordan and others ignored the alleged abuse, but more importantly it could gather more evidence against Ohio State. Keep in mind the Larry Nassar allegations at Michigan State began with only a few accusers, and that number eventually grew into the hundreds.

The suit brings damning allegations to buttress what has already been reported. It states Strauss was nicknamed Dr. Jelly Paws” for his “notoriously hands-on physical examinations,” and a former coach described Larkins Hall – a now demolished university recreation center – as a “cesspool of deviancy.” It adds that two wrestlers went so far as to meet with then-athletic director Andy Geiger and offered drawings of the locker room that would help with privacy and safety. According to the suit, Geiger promised to assist and did not follow through. (That meeting is said to have occurred during the 1994-95 season; Jordan was at the school from 1986 to 1994.) One student allegedly complained to the student health center about Strauss as far back as 1978.

Ohio State announced in April it would start an investigation, and reportedly interviews have already begun. Jordan has publicly and strongly denied knowledge of abuse, insisting he would have “dealt with it” had he known. Strauss killed himself in 2005.

Figures who have rallied around Rep. Jim Jordan
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Figures who have rallied around Rep. Jim Jordan

President Donald Trump

(Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

(Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC)

(REUTERS/Sean Gardner)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Jim Jordan is a man of integrity, and we believe him and stand with him 100 percent. If he had seen or heard someth… https://t.co/A8jbEMpDKL

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)


The message beyond Ohio State is clear: athletic departments must do better at prevention of sexual abuse. Scandals at Penn State and Michigan State have shown the tendency of those universities to play defense, which often makes situations more embarrassing and more expensive. It’s far better to be proactive than reactive. (The lawsuit against Ohio State requests that the university adopt a program to protect future student athletes.)

“Until schools realize that prevention is a more lucrative business model than their traditional reactive responses, these lawsuits will continue and victims will rightly be compensated for the abuse,” says Katherine Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes.

That may mean bringing in Title IX experts who are well-versed in prevention and communications rather than legal response.

It also means paying more attention to lower-profile sports. Universities like Michigan State and Ohio State have behemoth programs in football and basketball, but these allegations came from gymnastics and wrestling. Athletes in those sports clearly felt overlooked or even ignored.

Accusers and victims everywhere have been emboldened by the #MeToo movement and the bravery of the former gymnasts who came forward to testify against Nassar in Michigan. That saga had an effect on what’s happening now in Columbus, and the dominoes may keep falling elsewhere around the nation. Ohio State has seemingly been aggressive in investigating, however other schools must make sure their reporting procedures are clear and reliable.

Many will want to know what Jim Jordan knew and when he knew it. It’s more crucial to find out what athletic departments will do and how they will do it.

Read the entire complaint here:

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