ANN ARBOR, MI — The University of Michigan is facing several lawsuits against late athletic doctor Robert Anderson, who is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of former student-athletes.
Anderson worked at UM from 1968-80 as a University Health Services physician, and was then moved to the athletics department where he served as a team doctor until his retirement in 2003. Anderson died in 2008, and it wasn’t until 12 years later that the first accusations against him were made public.
UM alumni continue to come forward with claims of abuse, but here is what is known so far in the Anderson investigation.
Feb. 19: UM asks students to report sexual abuse by Anderson to a compliance hotline, which is part of an independent, outside review.
This statement alerting the public was the first time the accusations against Anderson came to light.
The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges against Anderson or the university because there was no possibility of prosecuting Anderson, and it did not express an opinion as to whether criminal offenses were committed by Anderson.
Feb. 20: Court documents from the late 1980s and early 1990s show Anderson was the subject of previous lawsuits – one for medical malpractice where he allegedly groped a job applicant, and one for a personal injury claim.
Both lawsuits were later dismissed, court records show.
Feb. 21: A police report obtained by MLive/The Ann Arbor News shows that Anderson performed unnecessary hernia and prostate exams, and he was known among many student-athletes as “Dr. Drop Your Drawers.”
UM Police interviewed dozens of people who had contact with Anderson, including several former UM football coaches and trainers who did not say anything negative about Anderson.
In just two days, the UM hotline receives 31 reports of alleged abuse by Anderson. One former student who said he was abused by Anderson in 1971 called the late doctor a “serial molester.”
Feb. 25: According to the police report, several administrators at UM had heard rumors of Anderson’s conduct. Investigators interviewed former associate vice president for student life Tom Easthope, who thought he fired Anderson in 1980, but the doctor instead was moved to the athletic department.
Easthope would later be the subject of multiple lawsuits.
Feb. 27: Former UM wrestler Tad Deluca wrote two letters to UM officials – one when he was a student in 1975 and the other in 2018 – alerting the university about abuse by Anderson. Deluca, along with former UM wrestlers Thomas Evashevski and Olympian Andy Hrovat, spoke at a news conference, sharing their stories of sexual abuse by Anderson.
March 2: Less than two weeks after opening the hotline, UM received more than 100 complaints alleging sexual misconduct against Anderson.
March 3: Parker Stinar, a lawyer representing Anderson victims, said some of his clients include a national champion football player and a former NHL hockey player. Another attorney — David Mittleman with Grewal Law — said that with 100 people coming forward at the time, “we’re looking at potentially similar numbers we’ve seen at (Michigan State University),” referencing the Larry Nassar abuse scandal.
March 4: Former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who now runs The Mike Cox Law Firm in Livonia, files the first federal lawsuit against UM on behalf of a former UM wrestler. The suit alleges that Anderson abused the former student-athlete on 35 occasions and that he never saw Anderson for issues related to his genitals or anus.
At a news conference, Stinar and his colleagues said they would not be moving forward with a lawsuit at that time, and called on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to conduct an investigation.
Early in Anderson’s career, he worked in Flint as an internal medicine resident at Hurley Medical Center from 1954-57.
March 5: More Anderson survivors come forward and, along with Nassar survivors, tell UM to do the opposite of what MSU did in the Nassar investigation.
Nessel said she will not open an investigation unless UM fully cooperates, which means committing to full transparency and waiving attorney-client privileges to ensure a thorough investigation.
Cox files more lawsuits on behalf of two former football players, a former wrestler and former hockey player at UM.
March 6: UM and the Board of Regents apologize “for the pain caused by the failures of our beloved university” and say they are grateful to the alumni who have come forward to hold the university accountable.
The police report obtained by MLive in February indicated Anderson may have worked for Ann Arbor Public Schools, but Superintendent Jeanice Swift said there was no evidence he was employed there.
March 9: While lawyers previously compared the Anderson case to the Nassar scandal, Annika Martin, an attorney with Leiff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein, said a class-action lawsuit could consist of “thousands of men.”
UM previously hired Steptoe and Johnson, a law firm based in Washington, D.C., to conduct an independent investigation, but the university drops the firm after it finds the firm “once represented prominent clients who were accused of sexual misconduct,” including late financier Jeffrey Epstein and film director Roman Polanski.
March 13: UM Regent Ron Weiser said he was abused by Anderson when he was a student at UM from 1963-67. Weiser said he has three family members who were also abused by Anderson.
March 24: After announcing it would replace Steptoe and Johnson, UM hires WilmerHale, also based in Washington, D.C., to conduct the independent investigation into Anderson. At the time, the firm also was handling an investigation into former UM Provost Martin Philbert, who was accused of sexual misconduct.
March 27: Although the police report said trainers had nothing bad to say about Anderson, a lawsuit filed on behalf of a former football player alleges that then athletic trainer and current Assistant Athletic Director Paul Schmidt told the player to “get used to that” when he reported sexual abuse by Anderson.
When Schmidt spoke to police, he called Anderson a “very credible doctor” and a “personal friend.”
April 5: Cox said UM could have gone to Nessel to conduct the independent investigation instead of Steptoe and Johnson or WilmerHale, calling the move “disappointing and shameful.”
April 7: UM sends a letter to about 6,800 former student-athletes asking them to come forward to WilmerHale with information on Anderson.
April 15: Another former UM football player from the 1970s said he was abused by Anderson and reported what happened to three different athletic trainers, according to a lawsuit filed by Cox.
April 21: A group of 40 Black men who said they were abused by Anderson retain attorney Jamie White of White Law PLLC in Okemos. White said Black men were “particularly vulnerable” to Anderson, who was the only doctor they could see as athletes on scholarship.
April 22: A former UM football player tells his story of being afraid to go to the doctor after being abused by Anderson. He was eventually diagnosed with prostate cancer and given just months to live, and he said he couldn’t go to the doctor earlier because of trauma he endured at the hands of Anderson.
April 28: UM said it was developing “a process outside the court system” to provide survivors with “more certain, faster relief” and maintain the privacy of those who have come forward.
May 2: UM admitted Anderson sexually assaulted a student, but argues the resulting federal lawsuit – filed by Cox — should be dismissed because it was not filed in a timely fashion.
June 10: Easthope, who told investigators he thought he fired Anderson, was ordered to testify under oath as part of a federal lawsuit. UM did not oppose the deposition, and lawyers said Easthope is one of very few living former administrators with personal knowledge of Anderson’s abuse.
June 16: UM sends another letter, this time to more than 300,000 alumni, asking them to come forward to WilmerHale with information regarding Anderson’s abuse.
June 23: That letter, however, would lead to U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts ruling that UM could not reach out to potential members of a class-action lawsuit, which could include all students on campus during Anderson’s tenure.
June 26: Easthope becomes the subject of another lawsuit: A former student said he shook hands with Easthope, agreeing that Anderson would be moved to an administrative role so he would no longer be able to sexually abuse students.
June 30: After the court barred communication with potential members of the class-action lawsuit, UM asks the judge to reconsider the motion, saying there was no improper contact with represented parties.
July 8: Current UM head football coach Jim Harbaugh said Anderson was his family physician when he was 9 or 10 years old, but he said he “never experienced anything inappropriate” from Anderson.
July 14: Cathy Kalahar, the first female Anderson survivor to come forward, called him the “coldest, meanest psychopath I’ve ever met.” She said Anderson told her during a physical that she should have her breast size cut down because “mine were so large that they would not be attractive or pleasant to men.”
Anderson also penetrated her vagina without using a glove and told her to consider becoming a lesbian.
July 30: Legendary UM football coach Bo Schembechler and late athletic director Don Canham both knew about sexual assault allegations against Anderson, a lawsuit alleges. However, the survivor — a former play-by-play announcer at UM — said Schembechler and other coaches had no power in those kinds of situations and had to go through Canham.
Aug. 6: After WilmerHale released a report detailing sexual misconduct allegations against Philbert, lawyers representing Anderson victims said they do not feel confident in the firm’s future report on Anderson, which is expected to be released before the end of October.
Aug. 7: Jon Vaughn, a former UM and NFL football player, said he was abused by Anderson up to a dozen times. He didn’t realize he had been abused until a former teammate emailed him an article about Anderson more than 31 years later.
After UM appealed the court’s ruling regarding communicating with potential class members, the judge orders UM to send a follow-up communication to alumni alerting them of lawsuits against the university.
Aug. 12: At a news conference, former UM football player and Super Bowl champion Dwight Hicks said he was abused by Anderson, and Airron Richardson, a former UM and Olympic wrestler, also said he was abused by the doctor.