Ohio State is currently dealing with three scandals – all of them getting national attention.
Hinda Mitchell, president of Inspire PR Group says anybody who’s a stakeholder for Ohio State is concerned about what’s going on. “There’s no question they’re in this sort of large-scale reputational crisis,” Mitchell said. “They have three things running on parallel tracks all of which create questions about: Are they doing the right thing? Are they credible? How do they reassure me?”
First came the allegations of sexual misconduct against former team doctor Richard Strauss. There are now more than 100 reports of misconduct from former students against Strauss going back almost 30 years. Strauss killed himself in 2005.
Then, last month the university was named as a defendant in a lawsuit that alleges sexual abuse by former Ohio State Diving Club coach Will Bohonyi.
And this week, head football coach Urban Meyer was placed on administrative leave while the school investigates whether Meyer was aware of and failed to report allegations of spousal abuse by former receivers coach Zach Smith.
Mitchell says there will be some damage to the university’s reputation but believes Ohio State will recover.
Mitchell says with the wave of sexual abuse scandals across the country is emotionally raw right now. “As a society we are dealing with a lot of really complicated and difficult- to-talk-about issues,” Mitchell says. “These are hard-hitting, emotional, value-based issues.” As a result, she says, Ohio State will need to connect with its constituents on an emotional level. “You can’t respond to an emotional issue with a fact or with an investigation. You have to respond emotionally. They’re going to have to match them and say – ‘we care as much as you do about getting these investigations right’.”