Ohio State: Massage therapist targeted football players for sexual relationships

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio State director of athletics is on a working group looking into how NCAA can allow athletes to accept endorsements and otherwise profit off their name, image and likeness without compromising amateurism.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio State revealed Thursday a massage therapist lost her license and was banned from having contact with the university’s athletic programs after soliciting members of the football team for sex over a multi-year period.

According to the findings of an investigation performed by an outside firm hired by the university, a 41-year-old northeast Ohio woman who was a licensed massage therapist used that status as a way to connect with Ohio State football players.

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Investigators interviewed 117 players and five said they had sexual contact with the woman, 20 said they had received massages from her, and nine said they knew of her or interacted with her in other ways.

Because all of the players involved were 18 or older and all activity was said to be consensual, the investigation concluded that no crimes were committed, according to the findings by the law firm Barnes and Thornburg.

Additionally, Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith said Thursday the university believes no NCAA violations were committed because the massage therapist’s motivations appeared to be having relationships with Ohio State football players.

Smith announced the results of the investigation Thursday and said the report was being released as a matter of transparency. He praised the reaction of the players, coaches and staff who submitted to interviews during the investigation. None of the coaches or staff had any knowledge of the massage therapist, the report said.

“I’m thankful that our student-athletes, coaches and staff were honest, forthright and open during our investigation,” Smith said, “and I’m really thankful they maintained confidentiality affording the investigation to be able to operate without distraction and with integrity.”

The investigation took place in March of this year, although the State Medical Board of Ohio initially received a complaint in March 2020.

In March the massage therapist agreed to surrender her certificate to practice massage therapy, the OSU report states.

“Our first concern and top priority is for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes,” the department of athletics said in a statement accompanying the report. “Within days of learning of these allegations, the university quickly launched an independent investigation of the matter. … Barnes & Thornburg found that no university or athletic department staff had knowledge of the massage therapist’s activities. Her actions were part of a scheme to exploit football student-athletes and were in violation of her state license.”

The investigation found the massage therapist, who had been licensed since 2009, used her profession as a way to get close to players.

The report stated that the massage therapist used social media to contact players and portrayed herself as an Ohio State massage therapist to some recruits on National Signing Day. She did not have any affiliation with the school or the athletic department, the report said.

Ohio State does have licensed massage therapists who work with the team. Smith said they are independent contractors who must go through compliance training, and they work under chaperones.

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