COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lawyers for men suing Ohio State University over decades-old alleged sexual misconduct by a team doctor say the growing number of accusers has topped 300.
Totals confirmed to The Associated Press put the group's size in the same ballpark as the initial wave of plaintiffs who got $425 million from Michigan State University to settle claims related to Larry Nassar, the now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor accused of molesting hundreds of women and girls.
Of the 300-plus men in the Ohio State matter, some still plan to sue and more than half already are listed plaintiffs in federal lawsuits alleging school officials knew of concerns about the late doctor, Richard Strauss, during his tenure but did little to stop him.
"This is, from our perspective, aside from the Catholic Church, one of the biggest sexual misconduct cases in the country," attorney Michael Wright said Friday.
Wright said his legal team is representing over 100 men, most of them former football players and other Buckeye athletes who say they were sexually abused by Strauss. Many of those aren't among the 177 men who provided firsthand accounts of sexual abuse by Strauss to the law firm that began investigating allegations for the university last year, Wright said.
Many of the men who have publicly recounted their experiences, including the ex-wrestler who spurred the investigation, allege they were fondled during medical exams. Their claims span 1979 to 1997 — nearly all of Strauss' Ohio State career — and include Strauss' work with the athletic department, the student health center and his off-campus men's clinic.
The investigating firm, Perkins Coie, didn't proactively reach out to possible victims, citing concern for potentially retraumatizing them. But the list of accusers has continued to grow as Ohio State publicized the investigation, alumni began sharing stories, and lawyers for the initial plaintiffs advertised a push to hold the university accountable.
The lawsuits against Ohio State are now in mediation toward a potential settlement . The lawyers involved won't publicly discuss the negotiations.
Ohio State has acknowledged its "fundamental failure" to prevent abuse by Strauss, apologized publicly to the survivors and said it is committed to the mediation process.
The investigation and the related litigation have cost the university about $7.8 million so far, spokesman Ben Johnson said.
No one has publicly defended the doctor, who killed himself in 2005. In a statement after the investigation findings were shared in May, Strauss' family offered condolences to the abuse survivors.
Strauss retired from the university in 1998 with emeritus status, an honorary label revoked this year by school trustees.
The State Medical Board had an investigation involving Strauss near the end of his Ohio State career but never disciplined him, and the details have remained confidential. A state panel tasked with reviewing the handling of that old case has yet to report its findings.