Looking back, it is ironic that two decades of garbage behavior finally washed ashore so innocently, with a single name buried three pages deep in an email exchange.

It began on Feb. 1, 2018, with Dr. Richard Strauss included in a public-records request sent by a former Ohio State wrestler to the university he attended from 1987-91. It culminated Friday with the release of a 230-page investigative report that Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students throughout his 20-year tenure as an Ohio State University physician, dating to 1979, and that university officials repeatedly failed to investigate or act on complaints about his conduct.

The wrestler who sparked the investigation into Strauss was equal parts whistle-blower and flamethrower. Mike DiSabato had his claws out for Ohio State in a long-running feud with the university over sports licensing contracts that he claimed damaged his own licensing apparel business.

Wanting to cast a wide net to catch OSU in as many “injustices” as possible, DiSabato included public-records requests No. 26, No. 27 and No. 28, which asked for “all employment documents for Dr. Richard Strauss, former Associate Professor of Medicine at The Ohio State University.”

DiSabato embraces his reputation as a thorn in the side of Ohio State, where he formerly served on the Varsity “O” alumni board. He has plenty of enemies, some who call him crazy. But just because someone is thought to be crazy doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong, which is why I paid attention when DiSabato sent me his records requests.

Skimming the requests, the bulk of them asked for email and text communications related to licensing agreements and royalty payments. But then there were requests No. 26, No. 27 and No. 28 — the latter two ending with Strauss and “sexual abuse allegations.”

Strauss. The name rang a bell, but I could not put a face with it. An online search brought up a photo and it all came back. This was the doctor who performed physicals when I ran track for Ohio State from 1980-84, the doctor who made me and some of my teammates uncomfortable because of his “different” behavior, though I never felt sexually assaulted — then or now.

Smelling blood in the water, DiSabato pressed The Dispatch to further investigate and went on to provide lurid details, alleging that Strauss showered with wrestlers and in one case dressed to leave Larkins Hall but undressed again when a well-built wrestler entered the room.

I questioned DiSabato’s agenda, but my history with Strauss led to the decision to proceed cautiously. The first step was to connect DiSabato with reporter Jennifer Smola, who covers higher education for The Dispatch, and bring the paper’s editors up to speed.

Eventually, we met with DiSabato to hear him out. He detailed his experiences with Strauss, which went way beyond anything I encountered with the doctor, but there was enough there to keep digging.

Smola carried the mail on the story, doing the bulk of the reporting and writing and sniffing out details about Strauss, who retired from Ohio State in 1998 and died by suicide in 2005. She pored over old rosters of OSU sports teams, tracked down administrators who may have interacted with Strauss and reached out to the deceased doctor’s medical school classmates and family to get an idea of who this guy was.

>>For complete coverage of the Ohio State investigation into Dr. Richard Strauss, go to Dispatch.com/Strauss

Along the way, some wondered at the point and value of “going after” a long-deceased former Ohio State doctor whose behavior may seem deplorable today, but to many barely registered a raised eyebrow a generation ago. After all, the times were different and Strauss is dead.

Hmm. Yes, in the early 1980s even the slightest hint of male-on-male sexual abuse often was shrugged off as “weirdness” or thrown back on the so-called victim, who was expected to “man up,” which translated into keeping quiet. That explains why so many men were ashamed to come forward until recently.

The bottom line is that no one deserves to feel violated by a team doctor. Not then. Not now. Not ever. Shame on Ohio State for looking the other way for so long. But good on the university for both apologizing to Strauss’ victims and owning up to, as Ohio State President Michael V. Drake wrote in a university-wide message on Friday, “our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent abuse.”

Also to be applauded are lawmakers who introduced a bill in the Ohio House of Representatives on Thursday that would grant victims of sexual abuse by a university the ability to bring civil action against the university, effectively removing the statute of limitations for such abuse.

In other words, no time limits should exist for debased behavior, because what that may seem innocent at the time too often is far from it.

roller@dispatch.com

@rollerCD