George Clooney and Grant Heslov's Smokehouse Pictures announced a new project on Monday. The company will partner with Sports Illustrated to produce a docuseries about the decades-long abuse scandal in the athletic department at Ohio State University. The series is based on an October 2020 article by Jon Wertheim.
According to a press release, Wertheim's article "revealed the extent of Ohio State's sports doctor Richard Strauss' alleged sexual assaults and manipulation" of more than 350 student-athletes. The list includes UFC Hall of Famer and Ohio State alum Mark Coleman, who opened up about being a victim of Strauss. He also alleged that Jim Jordan, a former Ohio State assistant wrestling coach-turned-congressman, knowingly ignored Strauss's abuse.
"This article uncovers the most widespread sexual abuse scandal in the history of American higher education. It is a story about power, abuse, enabling and the hierarchy of college sports that had been concealed for far too long," Wertheim said in a statement. "Because these courageous men made the decision to remain silent no longer, we can finally begin to hold the abuser, and those who were complicit in their silence, accountable for their actions — and inactions. With the help of 101 Studios, [SI owner] Authentic Brands Group and Smokehouse Pictures, their voices and stories — harrowing as they are — will be amplified."
When Ohio State identified merit behind the alleged abuse claims, the university quietly let Strauss go. No formal reports were ever filed while he remained on the payroll as a tenured professor. Strauss opened a private men's clinic in Columbus, just down the street from campus, which he continued to operate until his death by suicide in 2005.
According to the press release, the hundreds of alleged victims continue to seek justice. 162 have reached a settlement of $250,000 each. There are reportedly still more than 250 still pending.
"It's enormously important that we continue to shine a light on this ongoing, painful story and further explore its wide-ranging effects," said Marc Rosen, President, Entertainment at Authentic Brands Group. "We are lucky to be able to tap into the exceptional journalism of Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim and we are incredibly proud and humbled to bring even more awareness to his investigation." Authentic Brands Group partnered with 101 Studios in 2020 to form Sports Illustrated Studios in 2020.
"We're very pleased to partner with 101 Studios and Sports Illustrated in bringing this devastating and tragic story to light," Clooney and Heslov said in a joint statement on Monday. The two men will serve as executive producers of the docuseries, along with Wertheim. Jamie Salter, Corey Salter, Marc Rosen of Sports Illustrated Studios and David Glasser, Ron Burkle, Bob Yari of 101 Studios will join them as executive producers.