Former Ohio State Band Director Slams University's 'Inaccurate' Report

Jon Waters says he tried to change the marching band's culture.

ByABC News
August 5, 2014, 8:05 AM

— -- Fired Ohio State University marching band director Jon Waters says the findings of an internal investigation into the band’s culture were inaccurate -- and that he worked to improve the program’s culture before the investigation began.

Waters was accused in the report of knowing about and failing to stop a “sexualized culture” of pranks, tricks and rituals. According to the report, students were regularly hazed, forced to perform sexually-explicit stunts and march into the stadium in their underwear late at night in a tradition called “Midnight Ramp.” The investigation was launched after a parent raised concerns.

Waters argued that more than nine current and former band members should have been interviewed.

“The sample size was tremendously small for such an important issue as band culture,” Waters told ABC News.

“I think I was the victim of a rush to judgment and a very inaccurate report.”

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Waters had led the band -- “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” as it calls itself -- since 2012, creating popular halftime shows that drew millions of views on YouTube. He changed the shows by drawing them out on iPads instead of paper, directing marchers who morphed into the shapes of horses, superheroes and dinosaurs appearing to gallop, fly and tromp across the Buckeye football field.

Its technological advances landed the band in an Apple commercial in January. One performance in which the band takes the shape of a moonwalking Michael Jackson has more than 10 million views on YouTube.

But those accomplishments didn’t stop Ohio State President Michael Drake from dismissing Waters on July 24, stating that the dismissal was the only solution.

“Even one instance of harassment or hazing or assault is one too many,” Drake said in a video statement.

Waters argued that the problems started long before he joined the program.

“When you’re dealing with a culture that is entrenched, again, since the 1930s, this does not change overnight,” Waters said.

Waters said the university never gave him guidance on reforming the program’s culture -- but he started taking those steps, anyway.

“No one came to me and said the band’s culture needs to change, I realized that myself,” he said.

Ohio State rejected Waters’ allegations in a statement to ABC News.

“The former director was aware or reasonably should have known about this culture but failed to eliminate it, prevent its recurrence and address its effects,” the statement read.

The university named two music professors the interim leaders of the marching band Monday, with one focusing on compliance and student safety. The school plans to find its next permanent director through a national search.

The OSU marching band was the second nationally acclaimed marching band to be rocked by scandal in recent years. Florida A&M's famed "Marching 100" was suspended for more than a year and veteran director and university president resigned after the death in 2011 of a drum major in a brutal hazing ritual. FAMU's band had performed at Super Bowls and presidential inaugurations.