Ohio State University has long been known as a college sports powerhouse, but recent news is currently putting the school in the headlines for the wrong reasons. According to Encarnacion Pyle of the Columbus Dispatch, OSU fired two assistant cheerleading coaches on May 23 for alleged sexual harassment directed at various members of the squad.
Records indicate that two anonymous tips to the OSU ethics hotline found coaches Eddie Hollins and Dana Bumbrey to be in violation of university policies.
Pyle documented the comments of Ohio State spokesman Gary Lewis Jr. on the matter:
Ohio State University has no tolerance for this type of behavior. The university conducted a complete and thorough investigation and found that the behaviors of Hollins and Bumbrey were inconsistent with university values and violated university policies.
The reported sexual harassment came from Bumbrey in verbal form. He labeled some cheerleaders with sexually explicit nicknames and made inappropriate jokes when the team's women were in compromising positions in practice.
While Bumbrey's case may be closed, the same can't be said for Hollins.
Regarding Hollins' conduct, one accuser in particular, Cody Ellis, is no longer a member of the team, and he has insight into the situation from personal experience that may have led to his permanent banishment.
Ellis had told Hollins he was gay, and that's when he began receiving sexually explicit text messages from Hollins, according to Ellis' Columbus-based lawyer, John Camillus.
Another key development Pyle discusses is a previous investigation about Hollins from 2006, and how it tied in to some of the allegations leveled against the coach before he was fired:
Hollins told investigators that he took male cheerleaders to the gym at the Athletic Club in Downtown Columbus and showered in front of them on a few occasions. Investigators said Hollins had been investigated in 2006 because of similar allegations and should have known better.
The assistant coaches felt "sexual joking among the coaches and team members was common." Ellis and the other cheerleaders who spoke to investigators evidently felt that wasn't the case.
Lenee Buchman, the head coach of the OSU cheerleading team, was required to undergo sexual-harassment training after she did not report Ellis' initial complaint about Hollins.
Buchman may not be out of the woods just yet either if Camillus is able to link enough evidence to Ellis' alleged retaliatory removal from the squad.
"This retaliation by the head coach is despicable, and the university’s unwillingness to protect students who come forward as victims of sexual misconduct is equally abhorrent," said Camillus.
It will be interesting to see if there are any ramifications for the OSU authorities if Buchman is found to be mired in further wrongdoing.
Camillus said that Ellis approached Buchman about his concerns involving Hollins twice before he was removed from the team, according to records Pyle cites.
Hollins told OSU authorities that Ellis sexually assaulted one of his friends on a night out with the cheerleading team after a practice. That was after Ellis' initial complaints about Hollins' conduct toward him, and it led to Ellis' suspension in July.
There were different circumstances surrounding Ellis' permanent removal from the team, though, according to Camillus' testimony:
The university investigated and cleared Ellis of any wrongdoing at the end of July, Camillus said, but Buchman still refused to allow him back on the team. Camillus said Ellis complained to several OSU officials before Buchman removed Ellis from the team on Aug. 12 for having a bad attitude.
Considering that Ellis was highly regarded amongst his coaches for his attitude and effort, it seems unlikely that his demeanor changed in such a sudden manner to warrant dismissal.
"Are we really to believe that it is just coincidence that he gets suspended for one thing and then, when it comes time to lift his suspension, he is instead kicked off the team for something else altogether?" said Camillus.
This ongoing ordeal should become clearer as more information becomes available and as Camillus seeks justice for his client. Until then, closure and disclosure will define the remainder of the inquiry into the circumstances of Ellis' complete removal from the cheerleading squad.