Ohio State women’s rowing coach Andy Teitelbaum was fired March 10 after an investigation concluded that he had been dismissive of his rowers’ mental health concerns.
Teitelbaum’s departure was announced March 11 with little explanation from Ohio State. The Dispatch received his heavily redacted investigation report and Teitelbaum’s personnel file on Friday through a public records request.
Teitelbaum had been Ohio State’s rowing coach since the program’s inception in 1995. He led the Buckeyes to NCAA championships in 2013, ’14 and ’15 and received glowing performance reviews during his 24-year tenure.
But on Sept. 23, 2019, the university received an anonymous complaint raising allegations of practice violations and insensitivity to mental health concerns. The bulk of the investigation centered on the mental health issue.
“Twenty witnesses witnessed Teitelbaum make comments that were derogatory, dismissive or negative in regard to mental health concerns,” the investigation concluded. “These comments had a negative impact on the student-athletes, the culture of the program and their experience in the program.”
Among the accusations was that Teitelbaum told the team that depression is “selfish” and a “choice” and its cure is “giving and being grateful.”
According to the 20-page report, Teitelbaum acknowledged making certain comments regarding anxiety and depression, but denied other allegations or said that they were misinterpreted.
“However, most of the comments reported … were corroborated independently by other witnesses,” the report stated. “All of the witnesses interviewed were consistent and credible during the investigation process.”
The investigation also concluded that Teitelbaum had conducted psychological treatment on some rowers, which “put the student-athletes’ welfare in jeopardy.” According to the report, Teitelbaum did not inform any member of the medical team that he had conducted these psychological treatments.
In a statement provided to The Dispatch, Teitelbaum defended his actions and coaching tenure and criticized the report.
“I believe that as a coach, today more than ever, our job is to help develop athletes with high levels of emotional fitness and flexibility, so they are ready and able to handle life’s adversities,” he said.
“I am extremely proud of the program which I led for 24 years at Ohio State. I feel the success we saw on the water, and more importantly the success our athletes have had in life beyond rowing, is a testament to the lessons we taught, the skills we cultivated and the connections we created.
“I strongly disagree with the way in which this Human Resources report characterizes our actions. I appreciate that the report concludes I did not violate any NCAA or university policies. Still, I feel that one singular perspective, investigating, questioning, compiling and editing such a document, and doing so out of context, lacks the depth, clarity and comprehensiveness which any culture investigation with integrity requires.”
Mental health has become an emphasis in the OSU athletic program in recent years.
In the past nine months, the department has added two mental health therapists to aid student-athletes, bringing the total number of full-time mental health professionals to four.
“We also see a lot of anxiety and mood issues, because of depression,” Dr. Jamey Houle, the department’s lead sports psychologist, said earlier this month when speaking in general terms of athletes and depression.
“We’re hearing more about that — nerves, difficulty sleeping or changes in appetite,” he added. “From our training, we know that student-athletes are a unique population (because) of the pressures they’re under.”
OSU football coach Ryan Day has made adolescent mental health a prioritized issue.
After Teitelbaum’s firing, Kate Sweeney was appointed interim coach, but the team’s season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.