Ohio State bans massage therapist for inappropriate behavior targeting football team

A massage therapist has been barred from Ohio State's campus and from having any interaction with Ohio State athletics members after an independent investigation found she had engaged in inappropriate and exploitative behavior targeting members of the Buckeyes football team.

The university released statements and a full report on the investigation, concluding that the massage therapist had no affiliation with the university or its athletics department and that the school does not believe any NCAA rules were violated. The massage therapist is a 41-year-old woman who lives roughly two hours north of campus and obtained her massage therapy license in 2009 in Ohio. She claims to have had clients in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA football.

An investigation began after a complaint filed on March 14, 2020, with the State Medical Board of Ohio that alleged a female licensed massage therapist was offering free therapeutic massages to members of the Ohio State football team. She had been using the massages as a "means to initiate sexual interactions with some of the football student athletes, and then demanding payment," according to the investigation report.

Ohio State engaged outside counsel and hired the Barnes & Thornburg law firm to conduct the investigation, which found the massage therapist offered massages to student-athletes through social media with the intent of engaging in sexual encounters. The first contact with an Ohio State football student-athlete occurred in fall 2018 via social media.

The investigation also revealed that, at some point in 2020, the massage therapist contacted committed recruits on national signing day claiming to be a masseuse for the team. In total, 34 football players had knowledge of the massage therapist, with 20 receiving massages only and five football players acknowledging during interviews that they had engaged in sexual activities with her.

The firm found that the massage therapist used two methods to attempt to initiate sexual encounters -- isolating the student-athletes to get them in a vulnerable position or sending out "overtly sexual messages and see[ing] if she could engage their interest in a sexual encounter" -- according to the report.

The report states that this scheme took place from 2018 to 2021, mainly in off-campus housing or in hotels, but that no current or former staff members for the Ohio State football team were aware of the massage therapist or of her communication with the student-athletes. The report also notes that there was no direct evidence of force or of sex with a minor but that there was evidence of harassment.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith penned a letter to the massage therapist, who has since had her license revoked permanently by the medical board, and has barred her from any contact with any university athletics members and from all student-athletes, athletic staff and coaches.

Ohio State director of public safety Monica Moll also wrote a hand-delivered letter that bans the woman from being present on any property owned or controlled by Ohio State on any of its campuses. Any entry onto the premises will be considered criminal trespassing and result in arrest.