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Michigan v. Michigan State: Rivalry for Sexual Abuse Scandals

Photograph of a large brick building, Michigan Union, with ornate window panels, trees, and a blue sky in the background.

College athletes at Division I universities are some of the most talented individuals in the country. They dedicate hours of their time each day playing their sport, nourishing their bodies, and maintaining their health. Many of them have experienced the overwhelming joy of victory as well as the crushing blow of defeat. Unfortunately, for Tad Deluca, his collegiate athlete experience was marked by the latter.

In 1975, Tad Deluca was a member of the University of Michigan (UM) wrestling team. At the time, Tad was consistently battling an arm injury. When he confided in a friend (who was also a fellow student-athlete) about nursing his body back to health, the friend told Tad a disturbing story about Dr. Robert Anderson. Anderson was the athletic department’s team doctor who was assisting Tad with his injury. It wasn’t long before Tad realized that the unfathomable tale his friend told him about Anderson was indeed true: Anderson was sexually assaulting the athletes under his care.

After surviving several assaults by Anderson, Tad wrote a nine-page letter to his former coach, Bill Johannesen, informing him of the sexually inappropriate examinations Anderson had performed. When Johannesen received the letter, the coach told Tad it was clear that he no longer wanted to be a part of the wrestling team. Tad later received a letter from former UM Athletic Director, Don Canham, informing him that his athletic scholarship had been revoked since Tad had made the decision to end his wrestling career at UM.

Though Johannesen has denied Tad’s account to media sources, several former UM athletes stand in solidarity with Tad. To date, UM has received over 100 complaints alleging sexual misconduct against Anderson, who died in 2008. In 2018, Tad was reinvigorated by the courageous survivors of the Nassar sexual abuse scandal at Michigan State University, and he wrote a letter to current UM Athletic Director, Warde Manuel, detailing his claims against Anderson. A police investigation began in 2018, which revealed that UM officials had been aware of Anderson’s abuse for years. In fact, before his tenure in the athletic department, Anderson had been fired from a position in UM’s student health services after an administrator discovered he had been having inappropriate contact with male students in exam rooms. Anderson, however, was later rehired to serve in the athletic department and in other capacities. At the time of his retirement, Anderson was the top physician for the UM football team.

The University of Michigan must be held accountable for knowingly turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of dozens, if not hundreds, of its students who suffered at the hands of Anderson. Survivors deserve justice. The qualified attorneys at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis, and Overholtz are committed to bringing justice for survivors of sexual assault. Please contact us for additional information.

Sources:

https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2020/02/27/robert-anderson-university-of-michigan-tad-deluca-sex-abuse-scandal/4890575002/

https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/28793817/ex-um-wrestler-tad-deluca-says-warnings-doc-ignored

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/02/21/michigan-doctor-fired-sex-abuse-served-football-team-doctor-24-more-years/4835017002/

https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2020/03/more-than-100-complaints-now-logged-against-former-university-of-michigan-doctor-robert-anderson.html

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/02/21/michigan-doctor-fired-sex-abuse-served-football-team-doctor-24-more-years/4835017002/