Ousted Ohio State Marching Band director Jonathan Waters is planning to return to Ohio Stadium on Saturday, but it won’t be as the marching ensemble’s leader.
Waters will march with the alumni band into the stadium and during pregame during a performance at the Buckeyes’ home game against Kent State on Saturday. He will also sit with the alumni band during the first half of the game and might direct them during a few songs. He will not, however, attend Skull Session — the pregame pep rally the marching band holds before each home game.
“He’ll probably be as low key as he can be, just put on the sousaphone and get out there and march the show,” said former OSU Marching Band director Paul Droste Thursday evening. “He’s a former co-director of the alumni band with me, so he is one of us both as a former member of the marching band and as a former staff member of the alumni band. It’s an open invitation from the alumni band to march with us and, if he would feel so inclined, to perhaps conduct a number during the game.”
OSU spokesman Chris Davey referred questions about the alumni band’s scheduled performance to the TBDBITL Alumni Club.
In response to questions about the performance, Davey said the alumni band was not instructed to avoid the topic of Waters’ firing Saturday and its upcoming performance was not screened by anyone at the university.
Waters was fired July 24 after a two-month investigation into the band found a culture conducive to sexual harassment. It was determined Waters was aware or reasonably should have been aware of that culture and did not do enough to change it.
Since his dismissal, Waters and his attorney have made multiple public appearances and submitted a letter asking OSU to consider rehiring him. OSU President Michael Drake and the Board of Trustees, however, have declined to reconsider his case.
After nearly two months of tip-toeing around the decision to take legal action, Waters’ attorney David Axelrod suggested Thursday that his client might be closer to suing.
“I’m a realist,” Axelrod said. “It does appear that the university’s decision is entrenched. As I indicated before, if Jon concludes that there’s no hope, then litigation is a viable option.”
Some band alumni have made it clear they are standing with Waters.
Jacob Lowe, a former snare drum player with the marching band, said he wasn’t planning to march with the alumni band this fall until the report that led to Waters’ termination was released in July.
“Once the report came out and the fallout happened, I changed my mind and thought I should support the TBDBITL family and march, even though it means giving money to the university,” he said via Facebook message.
John Draper, a senior lecturer at Fisher College of Business and marching band alumnus, said he plans to perform with the alumni band on Saturday, but didn’t know what the show will look like.
“We really don’t know what the show will be. We show up on Friday and only find out what the performance will be during Saturday morning practice,” he said Thursday, before The Lantern reported Waters planned to march.
Draper said there are about 700 members planning to march Saturday, which is a little larger than usual.
Regardless of what decision Waters makes as far as legal action goes, the university plans on naming a new director by February. It has named University Bands director Russel Mikkelson and associate director Scott Jones as interim directors until that permanent director is selected.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced it will enter into an agreement with OSU to ensure proper Title IX obedience after a compliance review of the university was concluded, according to a release.
In the release, the OCR agreed with the university that a “sexually hostile environment” within the band violated Title IX, and praised the university for its handling of the situation.
Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 which says schools that receive federal funding can’t discriminate based on sex.
OSU was one of 55 U.S. colleges and universities being investigated by the department for its handling of sexual abuse complaints under Title IX. The review began in 2010 and was not complaint-based, the release said.
Elizabeth Tzagournis, Sam Kayuha and Liz Young contributed to this article.