Ex-athletes: Creepy people were at OSU
It was no secret that a team doctor being investigated for sexually abusing male athletes decades ago at Ohio State University liked to linger in the showers alongside those athletes. But he wasn’t the only one leering at young men inside the campus recreation center where many teams practiced and university employees exercised.
Wrestlers from that era remember men peeking at them over bathroom stalls and through a sauna window, a culture of voyeurism and “cruising” for sex not unheard of in gyms even today. Some say the same men began showering when team practices ended and would touch themselves while watching athletes.
“A gauntlet of sexual deviancy” is what one former wrestler said he and his teammates faced after practice. Another said Larkins Hall, which has since been demolished, was filled with “creepy people.”
Russ Hellickson, the wrestling coach who came to Ohio State in the mid-1980s, says he often caught men having sex in the team’s practice room and a nearby stairwell. His wrestlers complained about the men’s behavior, Hellickson said.
“It became a real problem because it affected the mental state of a lot of our wrestlers,” he said on a video distributed by one of his former team members. “There were times when the athletes themselves would confront people.”
Hellickson, who coached at Ohio State from 1986-2006, said he had numerous conversations with an official in charge of campus recreation and other university administrators. But, he said, nothing changed for years until the team moved to a new training facility near the end of his tenure.
Jim Jordan, who joined Ohio State in 1986 and was assistant coach from 1987 to 1995, is now a powerful Republican congressman.
Jordan has said he knew nothing about lewd behavior at Larkins Hall. He also has denied allegations by former team members that he knew about accusations that the now-dead team doctor, Richard Strauss, sexually abused dozens of student-athletes.
Independent investigators are reviewing allegations by men from 14 sports about Strauss. While questions remain whether coaches and administrators knew about abuse by Strauss, there’s little doubt the practice facility was an uncomfortable place for athletes.