Dozens of former University of Michigan football players and others who say they were sexually abused by their team doctor demanded a "true investigation" of Dr. Robert Anderson.
Gathered Wednesday outside Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor where the Wolverines play, they demanded that the university allow state Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate how Anderson was able to sexually abuse several generations of students and athletes, mostly under the guise of doing physicals.
In doing so, they took aim at the reputation of revered former football coach Bo Schembechler, sending shock waves through the state and widening the rift in his already splintered family.
Two of the abused students who had previously declined to be identified by name, unmasked themselves publicly as Anderson victims.
“I am a man, a Michigan man, say my name,” said former football player Jon Vaughn, who attended Michigan from 1988 to 1991 and accused the university of “gaslighting” the truth about Anderson. “I am not John Doe, I am Jon Vaughn.”
Vaughn is one of hundreds of men who were sexually abused by Anderson, who was a physician at the campus for 37 years and died in 2008. They are part of a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the university put students at risk by failing to stop him.
“I was ruthlessly, repeatedly and regularly raped by Dr. Robert Anderson at least 45 times,” Vaughn said. “We will no longer be faceless. We will no longer be quiet. We will not retreat.”
Richard Goldman, who was a student broadcaster at Michigan from 1981 to 1983 and who had also been described as a “John Doe” in court papers, said he told Schembechler and then athletic director Don Canham directly that Anderson abused him when he sought treatment for migraine headaches.
“He told me to go eff myself,” Goldman said of Canham, who died in 2005.
The former Michigan students spoke out before a Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, where the Anderson scandal is expected to be on the agenda, and a month after a report commissioned by the university — and conducted by the WilmerHale law firm — said Schembechler, Canham and other university officials were aware of complaints about Anderson but allowed him to keep working on campus and preying on students.
“We are not just victims of Robert Anderson, we are victims of an institution that failed us for more than four decades,” said former Michigan wrestler Tad DeLuca, one of the whistle-blowers who sparked the investigation into the university’s role in allegedly covering up for a physician who was widely known on campus as “Dr. Drop Your Drawers Anderson.”
DeLuca and the other victims said the university's probe was insufficient and want the AG to conduct her own investigation. But Nessel said last week she could only do so if the Board of Regents authorized Michigan "to fully and completely cooperate."
In response, the University of Michigan said in a statement that it 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."
"The WilmerHale investigation team had full access to all available information; they decided what to review and what to consider," the statement said. "Their report made it clear that many survivors required confidentiality as a condition for speaking. The university is committed to continuous improvement in our policies and practices to promote student health and safety."
Meanwhile, it was Schembechler versus Schembechler as relatives of the legendary coach, who died in 2006, clashed over allegations that he, too, failed to stop Anderson.
The family firestorm was sparked by the coach’s son, Matt Schembechler, who publicly alleged last week that in 1969 Anderson molested him at age 10 and that his father refused to believe him. He said his mother, Millie, tried to get Anderson fired but Schembechler had him reinstated.
Schembechler’s second wife, Cathy, joined by their son Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler and his wife, Megan, fired back this week with a statement in support of the coach.
“It is telling to us that Bo never spoke to any of us about inappropriate behavior by Dr. Anderson," they said in a statement this week. “To the contrary, in our steadfast opinion, Bo was not aware of such conduct and assumed that any procedures were medically appropriate.”
Bo Schembechler, they said, “had a clear and compelling sense of right and wrong.”
“He would not have tolerated misconduct, especially toward any of this players, family members, coaches, or to anyone associated with the University of Michigan’s football program,” they said.
Had he known what Anderson was doing, they said, “he would have stopped it immediately, reported it, and had Dr. Anderson removed from the university.”
Lawyers for a group of more than 250 Anderson survivors who are suing the university said “it is not surprising to hear some members of his family say that ‘Bo never spoke to any of us about inappropriate behavior by Dr. Anderson.'”
“That is the problem,” attorneys Mick Grewal and Stephen Drew said in a statement Wednesday. “Bo did not tell them. In fact, he did not tell anyone. Cathy, Glenn and Megan were not even around in 1969 when Matt Schembechler first disclosed Anderson’s abuse to Bo and his boss Don Canham. While it is understandable that they wish to erase the stain of the Anderson scandal from their family name, they cannot rewrite history.”
After Matt Schembechler and two other former Michigan football players, Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson, said last week that Schembechler knew about Anderson’s abuse but did nothing, a group of ex-players started an online petition on Change.org to defend their coach, who led the Wolverines to 13 Big Ten football championships.
“Our experiences tell us that the Bo Schembechler we knew would never have tolerated any abuse or mistreatment of his players, his staff, or any other individual,” the petition said, according to The Detroit Free Press.
The petition attracted just 182 supporters and is now closed.