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Ohio State band director's firing sets off clash

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm •  Published: August 3, 2014
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The new president of Ohio State University and supporters of the school's storied marching band are clashing over the unexpected firing of a band director with deep roots in the organization.

President Michael Drake dismissed Jonathan Waters on July 24 after a two-month investigation determined he knew about, but failed to stop, a "sexualized" culture of pranks, tricks and rituals that included students marching half-clad, feigning sex acts on buses and giving each other sometimes sexually explicit nicknames. The university says it had to move swiftly on a complaint against Waters under federal sexual discrimination laws.

The band's powerful and well-funded alumni association challenges the findings against Waters, whose elaborate halftime shows drawn on iPads revolutionized the field and have prompted millions of fan views on YouTube. The band also generated more than $30 million in ad revenue for the university last year.

The alumni group has launched its own review and enlisted some of its most iconic figures to try to get Waters reinstated.

They asked football great Archie Griffin, who leads the university's overall alumni association, to help them get a meeting with Drake but Griffin says he supports the university president's actions.

Both sides have conceded to being shocked by some of university investigators' findings. They found new band members performed acts to earn sometimes obscene nicknames referencing orgasms, sex toys and body parts; carried on grabbing and groping rituals and a trick called the "Flying 69" on band bus trips; and published lewd songbooks and underground newsletters.

In a memo he submitted at the end of the investigation, Waters laid out ways he was trying to address problems with band culture, prompting Waters' defenders to question why Drake chose such a severe rebuke. At the time of the firing, Waters was traveling to raise money for the university.

"We want somebody to stand up for the history and reputation of the band, which is undergoing a large smear at this moment," said retired band director Paul Droste, a member of the committee appointed by the alumni association pushing to get Waters his job back. "The band is portrayed now as a bunch of 'Animal House' types, and there are a few scattered minority in the band that might fit that description, but the rest of them don't."

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