• Alex Patterson

Michigan Reaches $490 Million Settlement With Robert Anderson Sexual Abuse Survivors


Image via umich.edu


The Athletic’s Austin Meek reports more than 1,000 survivors, who were sexually abused by former Wolverines doctor Robert Anderson, reached a $490 million settlement. Dr. Anderson became the official Wolverines team doctor in 1966, three years before the school hired Bo Schembechler to be the football team’s new head coach. An alleged victim is Coach Schembechler’s son, Matt Schembechler. $460 million will be dispersed among the 1,050 sexual assault survivors that came forward, and the other $30 million will be saved to be handed out to future sexual assault victims that come out and say they were abused by Dr. Anderson.


Meek in a separate article wrote the school’s officials failed to heed these warnings, and many sexual abuse victims were athletes, and Dr. Anderson abused them during their annual physicals that were required by the athletic department. The student-athletes were afraid to report his behavior because they thought if they reported his actions, they would lose their scholarships. Others expressed discomfort with his examinations, but school officials dismissed those concerns.


The report mentions three different occasions in the 1970s and the 1980s when Wolverine football players brought these issues and concerns to Coach Schembechler, which was added to a previously documented conversation Coach Schembechler had with a student broadcaster in the early 1980s about Dr. Anderson possibly sexually abusing Michigan student athletes. Every time this issue was brought up to Coach Schembechler or other Michigan officials, they refuted it and shot it down. Who knows how many student athletes were sexually abused by Dr. Anderson during his tenure as the head physician at the University of Michigan from 1966 to 2003, but I commend the students who had the guts and courage to bring their experiences then and now.


No monetary amount will erase the pain and embarrassment they suffered from Dr. Anderson’s actions and the school turning a blind eye to the program. The school relied on their football program to bring in revenue, especially when Bo Schembechler coached there from 1969-1989. The football program thrived under his tenure at Michigan, and it seems like he feared that if Dr. Anderson’s actions were brought to light, he would have had to resign, like Joe Paterno did at Penn State when Coach Sandusky’s actions were brought to light just over a decade ago. The coaches need to set their ego aside, and do what is right for their players and students, not for their job security.


Lloyd Carr, who succeeded Bo Schembechler, is guilty as well. Although he brought the program a national championship in 1997 and had great success against Ohio State until Jim Tressel took over the Buckeye program in 2001, he should have voiced the players’ and students’ concerns about Dr. Anderson and the way he conducted physicals. Although Dr. Anderson has passed, his legacy still remains and the students and athletes he abused are still reminded of what he did to them to this very day. This is why the university settled with the plaintiffs. They did not want their dirty laundry aired at trial. They would lose not only recruits and students, but they would lose sponsors, their reputation, boosters, and other things that make the school profitable due to their programs and students in those programs.


This settlement is not a win for the students and alumni who were abused by Dr. Anderson. They deserve a day to tell their stories about Dr. Anderson, or the school must report their findings about Dr. Anderson, so the public really knew what went on in Ann Arbor from 1966 to 2003.


Alex Patterson is a 3L at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. He played football for seventeen years as an offensive and defensive lineman. He graduated from Lindenwood University-Belleville in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Sports Management. He can be followed on Twitter @alpatt71.