SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- A former University of Michigan wrestling coach and former athletic director ignored sexual abuse accusations made against now-deceased team doctor Robert Anderson in the 1970s, according to a man who says he was ostracized and belittled when he attempted to speak up.
Tad Deluca was a wrestler at Michigan in the early 1970s when he first met Anderson. Deluca said Thursday morning that he wrote a nine-page letter to then-coach Bill Johannesen in 1975 saying that he believed the rectal and testicular examinations he received from Anderson were inappropriate. Deluca said he was seeing the doctor for help with an elbow injury. Johannesen, according to Deluca, read parts of the letter aloud in front of his teammates and told Deluca it was clear he no longer wanted to be part of the wrestling team. Deluca said he has a letter from then-athletic director Don Canham telling him that he read Deluca's letter and informing him that he would no longer have an athletic scholarship since he had decided to end his athletic career at Michigan.
"I will not be ignored again," Deluca said Thursday morning at a news conference with his attorneys and two other former Wolverines wrestlers who say they were sexually abused by Anderson. "Everybody who was abused by this doctor -- the doctor everyone knew was abusing athletes and students -- should speak up and let everyone know they will not be ignored. It has to stop."
Canham, who was a nationally renowned marketer during his two decades as Michigan's athletic director, died in 2005. Johannesen told The Associated Press earlier this week that he was never told about sexual abuse by any of his athletes.
Deluca wrote a letter to current Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel in the summer of 2018 to make a second attempt at sharing his story. That letter eventually prompted a police investigation. Prosecutors in Washtenaw County declined to pursue any charges as a result of the investigation, largely because Anderson died more than a decade ago.
Parker Stinar, who represents more than a dozen men who say they were sexually abused by Anderson, said he is scheduled to meet with Michigan's general counsel in the near future. He said no lawsuit has been filed yet.
The university has hired a Washington, D.C.-based law firm to investigate its response to accusations made against Anderson in the past. The school created a telephone hotline for any former victims of Anderson to report their claims, announcing that decision the day the Detroit News first reported claims about Anderson. University president Mark Schlissel apologized to victims last week and said the school will provide free counseling to sexual assault victims of Anderson and those of provost Martin Philbert, who was placed on leave last month after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
More than 70 people have contacted the school about Anderson, according to a university spokesman.
"The three brave men who came forward today to share their stories delivered a powerful message," university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement Thursday. "...The university engaged a firm with deep expertise to conduct an independent, thorough, and unflinching review of the facts -- wherever they may lead. Through the work of this independent firm, there will be a full, public accounting of the harms caused by Anderson as well as the institutional failings that allowed him to keep practicing."
Anderson worked at the university for more than 30 years, during which time he worked at the university health center and served as a team doctor for the football, hockey and track teams, as well as working with wrestlers. According to the Detroit News, police documents indicate that one university official attempted to fire Anderson in 1979 after learning about accusations of sexual misconduct, but the doctor continued to work with athletes until he retired in 2003. Fitzgerald told ESPN he did not know what years Anderson worked with the athletic department and would not likely be able to answer questions about Anderson's work history until the external investigation is completed.
Deluca said he is coming forward now in hopes that it might prevent future cases of sexual abuse. He said he was inspired to speak up again after watching survivors of former Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar speak about his abuse in January 2018. Deluca was joined by former wrestlers Tom Evashevski and Andy Hrovat at Thursday's news conference.
"It happened," Evashevski said. "I don't think many of us knew this was wrong, but we do now. I have to come forward. I love this university, but this should only make it better."
Johannesen, the former wrestling coach, allegedly responded to Deluca's accusations in 1975 by telling him he would not return to the wrestling room and "perhaps that explains why you were never a winner at Michigan," according to Stinar.
Stinar also said that Deluca's second letter, which was sent in 2018 and specifically described the former doctor inappropriately touching Deluca's penis and rectum, languished for months with Manuel and another Michigan administrator before it was passed to police.