COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A female massage therapist spent years reaching out to Ohio State football players, offering sessions that sometimes led to sexual encounters, according to an investigation released Thursday by the university.
Ohio State released the details of an independent investigation of the therapist, a 41-year-old from the Cleveland area. It determined that 34 football players from 2018 to ’21 knew of the therapist, that nine interacted with her (either directly or over social media), that 20 received massages and that five had sexual encounters with her.
The encounters took place off-campus at an apartment or hotel rooms. Players sometimes paid for the massages, although other times she offered them for free.
The investigation — conducted by Barnes & Thornburg, a law firm based in Indianapolis — found that no NCAA rules were violated, but it did recommend that a prosecutor review the therapist’s actions for potential criminal charges.
“There is no foundation for a finding that ‘extra benefits’ were provided to football student athletes or that the rules addressing preferential treatment, benefits, or services apply under the NCAA bylaw,” the investigation’s report read.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith sent a letter to the therapist barring her from further interactions with student-athletes, from purchasing tickets to Ohio State games or from donating to the athletic program.
“You targeted student-athletes for sexual activity under the guise of having a legitimate massage therapy business, and created a scheme to manipulate student-athletes for the purpose of advancing your own,” Smith’s letter read. “Your conduct jeopardized the health, safety, and well-being of our student-athletes.”
The investigation found:
- No direct evidence of force or sex with a minor, but evidence of a calculated effort to harass and get close to football players
- No awareness by university officials, including coach Ryan Day and his staff
- No NCAA implications of the massage therapist’s interactions with football players
Read the documents
On March 30, the state revoked the massage therapist’s license.
Documents from Ohio State redacted the name of the therapist, and in their 15-page report, investigators kept private the names of the football players involved in exchange for their cooperation.
“I am thankful that our student-athletes, coaches and staff were honest, forthright and open during the investigation,” Smith said. “I’m really thankful that they maintained confidentiality, affording the investigation the opportunity to operate without distraction and operate with integrity.”
The investigation arose from a complaint filed on March 14, 2020, with the State Medical Board of Ohio. The investigation by the Medical Board was delayed for about a year, when an investigator shared the complaint with Ohio State police on March 10. After determining Ohio State police did not have jurisdiction, the complaint was ultimately referred to university compliance and the independent investigation began March 18.
It’s unclear why nearly a year went by before the complaint was shared.