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Fired Ohio State band director: I took 'great steps' to change the culture

Aug. 5, 2014 at 9:07 AM ET

The Ohio State marching band director fired following the school’s investigation into widespread allegations of misconduct involving sexually explicit behavior insisted Tuesday he took “great steps to eliminate” traditions he said predated him for decades.

Ohio State University fired Jonathan Waters last month as part of disciplinary actions taken to remedy findings in a report that found the school’s band members engaged in a wide variety of explicit actions, from late night naked romps on the football field to forcing new band members to take X-rated quizzes.

Waters said he knew about the inappropriate activity and worked with his staff to change the behavior and mindset of his team.

“The culture in our band is entrenched and because it’s entrenched, it doesn’t turn on a dime,” he told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie. “And so on my first day, I did indeed engage with our leadership and our leadership team in trying to shape that culture, in trying to eliminate poor behaviors.”

For two years, Waters led the high-profile marching band known for performing drills that had Superman flying, Michael Jackson dancing and Harry Potter flying on his broom. But a complaint by a female band member alleging she was assaulted last fall prompted an investigation that found the band culture rife with sexually explicit behavior.

Waters claimed that investigation, however, was inaccurate because it failed to seek out the full story.

“What is so shocking by the report is its inaccuracy and its one-sided nature,” he said.

He noted that the report “cites things before my leadership of the band” and insisted that he did try to make changes even while he was an assistant band leader.

“You see the great performances on the field? You see the wonderful things that the band has done? And that does not happen without an atmosphere of respect, camaraderie, discipline — all of those wonderful things that we see on the field were also happening in hearts and souls of our band members, and we have done that as a group effort,” he said.

Ohio State issued a statement noting that its marching band, like math or physics, is considered an academic course in which students receive credit and a grade.

"The University remains in full support of the band and is committed to making sure that the right structure and resources are in place for any student who feels threatened or harassed in any way," it said. "Every single person on our campus must be able to learn, grow and experience Ohio State in a safe and positive environment."

Waters insisted "we moved very quickly" to make widespread changes within the band. "I’m just disappointed we didn’t get a chance to finish that job," he added, saying he would love to return to the position.

"This was my dream job. I love Ohio State and I love those students. And I’m here to set the record straight. I’m here to point out we have taken tremendous steps to improve the culture and move the band forward."

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