Ex-OSU Hockey Player Al Novakowski Details Alleged Sexual Abuse by School Doctor

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2020

Ohio University's Schottenstein Center is still under construction Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1998, in Columbus, Ohio.  The multi-purpose arena is scheduled to open Oct. 30, 1998.  (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)
TERRY GILLIAM/Associated Press

Former Ohio State hockey player Al Novakowski says he was sexually abused by Buckeyes team doctor Richard Strauss during his time at the school.

Novakowski told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic he was in a meeting with a counselor and his wife after undergoing multiple back surgeries when he first revealed he was sexually abused.

Strauss, who killed himself in 2005, is alleged to have assaulted at least 360 students from 1978 to 1998. An Ohio State investigation found allegations of Strauss' abuse were known within the university, but officials did not report him to authorities or make attempts to stop any assaults. Earlier this year, the school reached a $40.9 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by victims.

"That's what gets me beyond the point of humiliation and makes me angry. They knew about him and what he was doing. Are you kidding me? Are you f--king kidding me? That was it for me," Novakowski said.

Novakowski said the abuse began during his initial freshman physical while Strauss said he was checking for a hernia. The pattern followed in subsequent checkups—even ones that were simply for minor injuries.

"A shot goes off my foot in practice and it's really, really bruised up," Novakowski said. "So why is he checking me for a hernia? That was every physical, no matter what was wrong with you. So you found ways to avoid him, even if you probably could have really used the help of a doctor.

"You didn't want to get hurt. You didn't want to have to go see Strauss."

Novakowski said he informed former Ohio State coach Jerry Welsh he was uncomfortable with Strauss, but nothing was done. Novakowski says Welsh dismissed his concerns, saying he was making excuses for his poor play on the ice.

"[Welsh] basically told me that my game sucked and I needed to worry about my on-ice game, not the doctor. He didn't want to talk about nothing. He was mad at me because I wasn't playing well. He felt that I wasn't living up to the big plans they had for me," Novakowski said.

Welsh says Novakowski never brought any concerns to light. He added that no player ever came forward with their allegations, even though Novakowski said all players felt the physicals were "weird."

Novakowski was kicked off the team during his sophomore season. He said he began drinking heavily as a result of the abuse, and that caused his play on the ice to suffer, ultimately leading to his dismissal.