According to a lawsuit filed against the University of Michigan, former football coach Bo Schembechler had been told in 1981 by a student about the sexual abuse conducted by Robert Anderson, the then-football team doctor.
The lawsuit against the school was filed on Thursday. It alleges that the unnamed student told Schembechler he had been digitally penetrated during an exam by Anderson. The student clarified the exam was for migraines.
Attorney Jamie White highlighted that Schembechler’s failure to bring attention to the issue is a problem, although not a surprise. Many other universities, colleges, sports organizations, sports teams, leagues, and other sport-affiliated entities have faced similar crises.
White claimed that no one will be affected more than the university itself as they will have difficulty moving forward until the events are clarified in court.
In the lawsuit, it is mentioned that Schembechler had guided the student to report the abuse to Don Canham, former athletic director. According to the suit, Canham took no known action on the reports, and there is no indication to Schembechler following up on the issue.
Because of their lack of care and attention, Robert Anderson remained the team’s doctor for decades after. Since then, Canham, Schembechler, and Anderson have all died.
The University of Michigan Taking the Blow
Earlier this year, the university announced it was investigating allegations of sexual abuse by Anderson. Several individuals, specifically men, have come forward in lawsuits and publicly accusing Anderson of molesting them during medical exams.
According to the alleged victims, the abuse occurred during Anderson’s time as a physician for the University of Michigan’s athletic team and at the university’s health service clinic.
On Thursday, the university responded to news of the lawsuit and referenced an investigation they were holding independently with the law firm WilmerHale. The independent investigation has been paused by a federal judge for the time being as it is being decided whether or not it could interfere with other legal procedures.
University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald made it clear that the university condemns all forms of sexual misconduct. He highlighted that it does not matter when the events took place, whether thirty years ago or fifteen years ago.
Fitzgerald is assured that the WilmerHale investigation will ultimately be successful as over fifty of Anderson’s former patients have already contacted the law firm and are awaiting a response. Fitzgerald believes the internal investigation will restart immediately.
According to Fitzgerald, as of July 23rd, 394 individuals reported complaints of sexual misconduct regarding Anderson to the team.
The Unfortunate Reality
Although difficult to believe, Anderson’s history of sexual assault was not a secret to athletes in the University of Michigan community. Nicknames were given to refer to the doctor, including “Dr. Drop Your Drawers” and “Dr. Glove.”
It was known to many athletes and coaches that Anderson would give unnecessary rectal and testicular exams to university students. There are currently over seventy lawsuits filed in federal court against the University of Michigan regarding Anderson’s sexual misconduct.
The university, as well as those suing, will enter mediation in September of this year. There have been eight days set aside for formal mediation, and several lawyers claim hundreds of victims have yet to file their own lawsuits.
Anderson’s behavior has gone without consequence for far too long. Anderson is no longer alive to face the music himself, and the university is rightfully taking the hit because of it.