Two lawsuits alleging Ohio State University ignored or failed to stop sexual misconduct decades ago by a team doctor are headed toward mediation.
Federal Judge Michael Watson on Thursday told attorneys involved to recommend potential mediators for the lawsuits brought by scores of men who say Dr. Richard Strauss abused them, mostly in the 1980s and ’90s.
A law firm is investigating the Strauss allegations for the university. Watson says he wants to privately review their findings as soon as it's available.
Ohio State argued the lawsuits weren't filed within the statute of limitations and should be dismissed. The plaintiffs contended the clock on those limits didn't start until the investigation was announced last spring.
“This is a major turning point in efforts by former OSU students who have repeatedly been frustrated by OSU’s efforts to dismiss not only their legal claims but in turn, the legitimacy of the abuse they endured while students at Ohio State,” said Jack Landskroner, one of the victims’ attorneys.
After Watson's ruling, OSU special counsel Mike Carpenter said, "We welcome mediation and will confer and bring forward to the court a recommendation for a mediator."
Strauss died in 2005. No one has publicly defended him.
The investigation was sparked last year after former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato and several other former wrestlers came forward with allegations that Strauss molested them during physicals.
The university's probe of the Strauss allegations became a national story on July 3 when DiSabato and other former wrestlers at the university told NBC News that their coaches, one of whom was Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was aware of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
Jordan, who coached at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, has maintained repeatedly that he was not aware of alleged abuse of student wrestlers by Strauss, saying he did not even hear any locker room talk about the doctor.
Among the wrestlers who have spoken to NBC News about alleged abuse by Strauss, some have agreed with DiSabato that it is hard to believe Jordan was unaware of the team doctor’s alleged behavior. But some others have defended Jordan, saying that if he had known he would have acted.