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“I spoke up by letter in July of 1975 and it was ignored and denigrated by the University of Michigan,” said Tad Deluca, former University of Michigan wrestler. “I spoke up again by letter in 2018 after hearing an NPR story about the MSU gymnasts, women who I am in awe of. Once again, the University of Michigan ignored me. I’m here today to speak up again to let the University of Michigan know that I will not be ignored again.”
Deluca, who alleged the late Dr. Robert Anderson of sexual misconduct, along with other alleged survivors Thomas Evashevski, former University wrestler, and Andy Hrovat, Olympic wrestler and U-M alum, spoke publicly for the first time at a press conference in Southfield Thursday morning.
Deluca submitted a letter in 1975 accusing Anderson of sexual abuse when he was a University student from 1972-1976. The late Don Canham was the athletic director at the time.
In 2018, Deluca submitted another letter with the same allegations to current University athletic director Warde Manuel.
Parker Stinar, a lawyer with Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo and Stone, facilitated the conference. He described Deluca’s experience with Anderson and the University.
“Tad was also a victim of sexual abuse,” Stinar said. “From his freshman year to junior year, Dr. Anderson performed unnecessary examinations on Tad, including testicle and rectal examinations. Tad knew what Dr. Anderson was doing was wrong. And as a 19-year-old, he wrote a letter to the individuals who are responsible for protecting him when he was away from his parents — his coach, Bill Johannesen … included in his letter, Tad has statements such as ‘Doctor drop your drawers Anderson’ and ‘something is wrong with Doctor Anderson. Regardless of what you go in there for, he always makes you drop your drawers.”’
Stinar explained Deluca trusted and looked up to Coach Bill Johannesen like a father and was disappointed in his response.
“How did the University of Michigan coach, father figure Johannesen respond?” Stinar questioned. “Tad was removed from the wrestling team, Tad’s scholarship and financial aid was revoked. Tad’s personal letter that he wrote in 1975 was read to the rest of his wrestling team.”
In a statement from University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, the University has hired outside investigators Steptoe & Johnson to uncover the facts of the case.
“The university engaged a firm with deep expertise to conduct an independent, thorough, and unflinching review of the facts – wherever they may lead,” the statement reads. “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.”
Stinar then described the letter Deluca sent in 2018 to Athletic Director Warde Manuel. Stinar alleged Manuel ignored the letter.
“Tad’s 2018 letter to the athletic director at the University of Michigan includes very, very serious statements,” Stinar said. “After receiving this letter athletic director Warde Manuel and Pamela Heatlie, who is affiliated with the academic and faculty Affairs, sat on this letter for numerous months, because it got lost in a stack of paperwork. This letter was received in the heat of the Nassar investigation. The University of Michigan sat on this letter for months, and just like Tad's 1975 letter, it was ignored.”
After Manuel received the letter in 2018, the University police conducted an investigation into the allegations. However, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office did not pursue criminal charges because Anderson had died in 2008 .
Hrovat described how his teammates warned him about Anderson before he had to go in for his physical as a freshman and the impact of knowing what was about to happen had on his mental state.
“When your team is telling you when you go in there, that you’re going to be touched inappropriately, and things are gonna get weird,” Hrovat explained. “Just going into it, that mental psyche was something I couldn’t deal with at the time. You know, that’s what has stuck with me for the last 20-plus years, to have to go into a room knowing that you're going to encounter this … and that's why it's always been in the back of my mind that this wasn't right.”
Evashevski commented on the prevalence of the abuse perpetrated by Anderson.
“It happened to me, it happened to them, it happened to just about everyone I knew,” Evashevksi said.
Hrovat described his experience as a male athlete who was sexually abused. He said the culture within athletics for males to push through any obstacles they face contributed to the environment of silence.
“As athletes in combat sport, an individual sport, we’re taught our whole lives that, you know, this is on us, you know, be tough, push through it,” Hrovat said. “And make no excuses because everything’s in your hands…It’s really hard to look at yourself as a victim, right? Because you're not a victim on the mat. It’s in your hands, right? But it’s hard to separate.”
Deluca said he often blamed himself for his losses on the mat, and that blame carried over to his interactions with Anderson.
“If I won, it was my fault, if I lost, it was my fault,” Deluca said. “So, in 1975 I lost everything, and it was my fault.”
Stinar concluded by explaining the next steps the alleged survivors were taking legally. He noted a lawsuit has not yet been filed but they have a meeting scheduled with the general counsel of the University in the near future.
“At this point, our three goals are to uncover the truth, and that will be through the documents that we've obtained, as well as speaking to other victims and other individuals willing to come forward and speak up,” Stinar said. “Number two is to allow a safe platform for victims to call into, to communicate, to share their story… and then number three is holding the University of Michigan accountable. And number three, there’s different pathways to go down. And at this time, the first step is to meet with the University.”
The University statement recognized the courage of the men who told their stories and requested others who have been negatively impacted by Anderson to come forward.
“The three brave men who came forward today to share their stories delivered a powerful message,” the statement reads. “We want to encourage everyone harmed by Robert E. Anderson or who has evidence of his misconduct to come forward. At the University of Michigan we want to hear your voices.”
The allegations against Anderson come after the University placed Provost Martin Philbert on leave due to multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and allegations against University EECS Professor Jason Mars.
Daily News Editor Emma Stein can be reached at email@example.com