For the past couple of weeks, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, whose congressional district includes Union County, has been bombarded with claims that he ignored reports of sexual abuse by a team physician during his tenure as an assistant Ohio State wrestling in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He has denied the claims saying that he was unaware of any abuse by the OSU doctor.
It’s understandable how an assistant coach may not be in the know on every aspect of what happens to team members. I was an assistant wrestling coach at Marysville High School for 20 years. There was a chain of command in place and its operation may shed light on how things are reported to those in higher positions.
There was an incident in which a younger wrestler claimed that an older member of the team hazed him by duck-taping him and putting him in a locker. He told his parents who went to the head coach. The coach then had a meeting with the older wrestler and his parents, and the older wrestler was suspended for a period of time. Besides the parents and head coach, the other wrestlers on the team knew about the unfortunate occurrence because it happened in the locker room. However, I did not know about the hazing. Nothing was reported to me at the time. I only became aware of it later when the head coach told me of the suspension since I was involved in helping to determine what our best starting lineup would be.
The point here is that it’s very likely Jordan didn’t know about what was going on with the abuse claims even if some of the team members had been victims of the physician’s groping. Nothing was made public until Ohio State opened an investigation this past April.
In another incident while I was coaching, I did know about an infraction because I personally observed a rule violation and did make a report about it to the school board. It had always been understood that no student could be in the building unsupervised. A soccer player was in the weight room working out without school-approved supervision even though he had a set of district keys to the facility. Because of my report, the school board made an official policy that no athlete could be in the weight room without an approved supervisor. The reason for this is obvious – liability. And I think Jordan would have reported anything he saw, too.
But assistant coaches in any sport are not always privy to all that happens, even when it is common knowledge among athletes on the team. In Jordan’s case, most of the former OSU team members and other assistant coaches have come out in his support. It’s rather obvious that because of his growing popularity in the House of Representatives, and the possibility that he may be considered by the Republican Party for the Speaker of the House position, the claims against him seem to be politically motivated.
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