College Football

Athletes call on AG to investigate abuse at U-M

A trio of University of Michigan alumni and their attorneys asked the state’s attorney general to open an investigation into how officials at the school dealt with past complaints about Robert Anderson, the late doctor who is accused of molesting hundreds of patients during his time on campus.

A group of more than two dozen former athletes, former students and supporters gathered across the street from the university’s football stadium Wednesday morning in an effort to spur some action in the sprawling sexual abuse case and say that several past high-ranking officials in the school’s athletic department should have done more to stop Anderson’s assaults.

“Michigan has not changed its culture,” said former wrestler Tad Deluca, who set off the investigation that has unearthed more than 800 complaints about Anderson when he wrote a letter to the university nearly three years ago. “Their actions show they don’t want change. The university doesn’t want transparency about Anderson and his enablers.”

Anderson held a variety of roles at the university from 1966 until his retirement in 2003, including spending much of that time working closely with the Wolverines’ sports programs. He died in 2008.

Spurred by Deluca’s allegation and the public reports that eventually followed, the university hired the WilmerHale law firm in March 2020 to investigate Anderson’s conduct and how others at the university handled complaints about him throughout the course of his career. The WilmerHale report found multiple examples of employees in the health services department and the athletic department who ignored credible complaints about Anderson or did not act on consistent rumors about Anderson’s inappropriate conduct.

Deluca and others said Wednesday that the WilmerHale report was not sufficiently independent or thorough in the questions asked or the answers produced.

“So board of regents, so the University of Michigan — say my name,” said Jon Vaughn, a running back from 1988 to 1991. “Because the time is now for all of you who have been abused here to speak up for justice. We speak because every victim matters. I am not John Doe. I am Jon Vaughn.”

A spokeswoman for Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel told ESPN that her office would only open an investigation if Michigan agrees to be fully transparent ahead of time. Nessel and her office ran into road blocks when conducting a similar probe at Michigan State in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case.

“The mounting number of allegations against individuals at the University of Michigan appears to demand an investigation,” spokeswoman Lynsey Mukomel said. “However, unless and until the University agrees to fully cooperate and waive privilege, the Department of Attorney General would be unable to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged crimes described by victims.”

“The University of Michigan is actively engaged in a confidential, court-guided mediation process with the survivors of Dr. Anderson’s abuse and we remain focused on that process,” a university spokesman said in a written statement shared with reporters Wednesday morning. “The WilmerHale investigation team had full access to all available information; they decided what to review and what to consider. Their report made it clear that many survivors required confidentiality as a condition for speaking.”

Some of the complaints included in the WilmerHale report were aimed at famed former football coach Bo Schembechler. Last week, one of Schembechler’s sons and two former football players came forward to say they attempted to tell the coach about Anderson’s sexual assaults as early as 1969. Schembechler, who coached the school’s football team for two decades and served as its athletic director for two years, died in 2006.

On Wednesday, a former student named Richard Goldman, who worked as a radio broadcaster covering the team’s games while he was in school, said he also told Schembechler on several occasions in the early 1980s that Anderson had molested him when he went to see the doctor for a migraine specialist referral. Goldman previously shared his story anonymously but decided to publicly identify himself this week.

Goldman said Wednesday that he believes Schembechler fulfilled his duties by sending Goldman to tell then-athletic director Don Canham about his experience with Anderson. Goldman said he places the responsibility for Anderson being able to continue to see patients after 1983 squarely on the shoulders of Canham. He did say he was “very disappointed” that Schembechler didn’t oust the doctor years later when he took over as the school’s athletic director. He said he had no comment on the claims made last week by Schembechler’s son, Matt.

“This could have ended in the 1980s, but it didn’t,” Goldman said. “It was ignored.”

The university’s board of regents is scheduled to meet Thursday. There are no items related to Anderson listed on its public agenda. Wednesday’s speakers asked the board to consider waiving attorney-client privilege to allow for an attorney general investigation. They also called on the board to apologize more directly for the university’s failure to stop Anderson sooner.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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