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'There's no way Bo didn't know.' Former UM player weighs in on Anderson sex abuse report

Posted at 4:07 PM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 18:36:03-04

(WXYZ) —

A report released by WilmerHale Law Firm Tuesday strikes at the very heart of the University of Michigan's football program and the legacy of the late coach Bo Schembechler.

The report says the former coach ignored reports of sex assaults on his own players at the hands of the team doctor at the time, Dr. Robert Anderson.

The law firm conducted an investigation and found credible allegations of abuse over the course of decades, from the time Anderson was hired at the university in 1966 until he retired in 2003.

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A former college football star who continued his success in the NFL is among those calling for accountability.

"We’ve got to stop idolizing and making these sports heroes like gods, because ultimately they’re men, and all men have flaws,” said Jon Vaughn, a former running back for the Michigan Wolverines.

For Vaughn, time spent at the University of Michigan as a football standout was filled with pride and joy, but aside from good memories, he says there’s a feeling of betrayal by a man he and so many others looked up to.

“Was he a great coach, did he win a lot of games ... yes. I'm not here to judge Bo, but ... there’s no way Bo didn’t know. He knew everything in that organization and then to find out that players had told him and his response was 'toughen up,'” he said.

Toughness on the football field was demanded by coach Bo Schembechler from 1968 to 1989. He was also the Athletic Director from 1988-1990.

Yet, former students like Robert Stone, who’ve also spoken up, say the school and its beloved coach put reputation and wins on the field above everything.

“'Hail to the Victors Valiant' rings a little bit hollow when you understand that many of the teammates were being regularly sexually assaulted by the team physician, and the coach knew about it but did nothing,” said Stone.

Stone also provided some insight into why the late coach may have allowed Dr. Anderson to victimize students during his many years at the University of Michigan.

"What would be a practical reason for remaining silent? And the practical reason is you can control the physician and get him to do things and approve things that a more ethical, uncompromised physician would not,” he said.

WXYZ-TV reached out to the University of Michigan Board of Regents to ask them if the school is considering changing how the late coach will be honored on campus in light of recent events, but were told they have no comment citing pending litigation.

“This is not a new phenomenon, it's happened at Penn State, it happened at Michigan State, it happened at USC," Stone said.

Vaughn has this message for students today: “Speak your truth and continue to speak truth. I’m in support of equal punishment for Schembechler Hall, Bo’s statue, all of that. We understand that’s the focus, but there are thousands of young men in pain and that should be the focus. Why celebrate a man who enabled and covered up rape?”

Wednesday the university responded with the same statement they had already issued about the report.

It reads in part, “The University of Michigan offers its heartfelt apology for the abuse perpetrated by the late Robert Anderson."

Vaughn said he is writing a book about his experiences and how he's coping with them. He says he’s committed to raising awareness about what happened.


WH Anderson Report by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit