Feds open investigation into ex-Ohio State wrestling doctor

The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into whether Ohio State University officials responded "promptly and equitably" to complaints from wrestlers and other athletes that the team doctor had molested them.

Among other things, the department's Office for Civil Rights will investigate the university's response to "allegations that employees knew or should have know about the sexual misconduct and allowed the abuse to continue," according to a release from the university on Thursday.

The development comes four months after Ohio State, prompted by complaints from wrestlers who said that they were molested by Dr. Richard Strauss, began its own investigation into the allegations from more than two decades ago.

(A 1978 employment application for Dr. Richard Strauss, from Ohio State University personnel files. Ohio State University via AP file)

"We welcome the involvement and careful oversight of OCR and look forward to providing any information we can," Gates Garrity-Rokous, vice president and chief compliance officer for Ohio State, said in the release.

"We responded promptly and appropriately to the allegations received in April about Dr. Strauss. We are confident in the independence and thoroughness of the investigation we launched then as well as our ongoing commitment to transparency."

Strauss killed himself in 2005. His relatives previously released a statement saying they were "shocked and saddened" by the allegations.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, is among the former staff members who have been accused by some former athletes of turning a blind eye to the alleged abuse by Strauss. Six former Ohio State wrestlers interviewed by NBC News have said they believe Jordan must have known about the alleged abuse. One said he had told Jordan about it directly, and his account was corroborated by another wrestler.

Jordan has denied any knowledge of the allegations against Strauss. Jordan has said he didn't even hear any locker room talk about the doctor.

Other wrestlers, including two who spoke to NBC News, have said they believe that Jordan did not know about it.

Jordan's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Perkins Coie, the law firm hired by Ohio State to conduct its independent investigation into the allegations against Strauss, is expected to provide university trustees with an update this month.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights oversees the enforcement of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in education programs or activities that receive financial assistance from the U.S. government.