Lawsuit: Legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler knew of allegations of sexual abuse against team doctor

A new lawsuit filed in federal court claims that legendary University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler knew of abuse allegations against a former team doctor.

The lawsuit is one of many filed regarding abuse allegations against Robert Anderson, who is accused of sexually abusing myriad students and players in his time at Michigan. The latest suit, filed on behalf of over 50 people including an unidentified man who worked as a play-by-play announcer for Michigan while he was a student in the 1980s, includes the claim that the announcer told Schembechler twice of abuse by Anderson and Schembechler told him to take the allegations to then-athletic director Don Canham who did not report the allegations further.

The man said that Schembechler was furious upon hearing the allegations.

"I cannot blame Bo for not being able to come forward," the man filing the lawsuit said at a news conference Thursday via ESPN. "...This was Don Canham's job."

The man’s claim that Schembechler told his superior is similar to the allegations against Joe Paterno regarding the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Paterno told athletic director Tim Curley about abuse allegations against his defensive coordinator but did not go to the police. Sandusky is currently serving an effective life sentence on multiple child sexual abuse convictions.

Schembechler coached at Michigan from 1969-1989. He was 194-48-5 in his 21 years at the school and the Wolverines had 11 seasons with 10 or more wins during his tenure and never won fewer than six games while he was head coach.

The former announcer is also being represented by a lawyer who has represented victims of former Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar.

From the Detroit Free-Press:

"The revelations involving the failure to act on the part of Bo Schembechler are troubling but should not be surprising," said Okemos-based lawyer Jamie White, who is part of the team of lawyers filing the lawsuits. "We have seen this trend play out with institutions all over the country, including but not limited to (Penn State University Coach Joe) Paterno, leadership in the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America, and most recently Michigan State University."

"The Schembechler revelations are going to be disturbing to many but the university will not heal and be able to move forward from this horrific period until there is a complete accounting of what went wrong," added White, who also represented 60 accusers of serial sex abuser Larry Nassar, a former MSU sports doctor.

Nassar, a former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is also serving effective life sentences for his sexual abuses. Multiple members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team said that Nassar abused them and over 150 lawsuits have been filed regarding Nassar’s sexual abuses and the lack of action taken to stop him from committing the crimes in real-time.

1 Jan 1990:  Head coach Bo Schembechler of the Michigan Wolverines (center) stands with his team during the 1990 Rose Bowl game against the USC Trojans in Pasadena, California.  USC won the game 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport

Anderson accused of serial sexual abuse

Accusations of sexual abuse by Anderson were investigated by University of Michigan police in 2018 and the school asked any victims to come forward with their accusations in February of 2020 after discovering numerous claims of abuse. Athletes from multiple sports have relayed their accusations of abuse and over 50 lawsuits have been filed alleging sexual abuse against Anderson.

In the newest suit, the announcer said that he was referred to Anderson after suffering headaches and the doctor penetrated him rectally twice as part of the “medical treatment.”

"Athletic Director Canham took no action and failed to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse committed by Dr. Anderson," per the suit. "U of M never acted on and/or investigated (the man's) complaint of sexual abuse committed by Dr. Anderson."

Anderson, who was a team doctor for over 30 years, retired in 2003 and died in 2008. Canham died in 2005.

In March, a suit claimed that current assistant athletic trainer Eric Schmidt knew of allegations against Anderson in the 1980s. Schmidt has denied the claim.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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