The University of Michigan's current head athletic trainer knew about the sexual misconduct of former team doctor Robert Anderson and joked about it, according to court documents filed Friday morning by two former Wolverines football players.
The two anonymous former players say that assistant athletic director/head athletic trainer Paul Schmidt and another employee identified only as "Murph" regularly told players who had to see Anderson to "go back there to Dr. A to drop [their] drawers." Anderson, who died in 2008, has been accused of sexually assaulting many former patients by conducting unnecessary rectal exams and "excessive genital fondling" during his 35-year career at the university.
"It was always just, like, hey, go see Dr. A. Go drop your drawers. I specifically remember Schmidty's laugh about it," one of the players said. "Like I can see him doing it. Murph was a little more quiet. I definitely remember Schmidty laughin' and cacklin' about it."
The two players are part of a group of more than 20 men -- many of them former Michigan athletes -- who have filed an intent to sue the university, its board of regents and the estate of the deceased doctor. The university and its regents have been named in more than three dozen other lawsuits already filed by different law firms. According to the university, roughly 6,800 students played sports at Michigan during Anderson's three decades working with the athletic department. More than 300 people have retained lawyers in connection to Anderson's alleged abuse, according to estimates provided by several of the largest law firms involved in the burgeoning case.
"The University of Michigan failed them," attorney Mick Grewal said in a news release Friday morning. "Failed to protect them, failed to stop an alleged serial predator. We represent and have spoken with over 100 survivors, including professional and collegiate football players, wrestlers, golfers, hockey players, pilots, and people from all walks of life and the pattern is the same. Over the last 4 decades, multiple employees at the University, including Assistant AD Paul Schmidt could have stopped Anderson."
Schmidt is the first current athletic department employee who has been publicly accused of overlooking Anderson's abuse.
"The university has confidence in the independent investigation now underway by the WilmerHale law firm," university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Friday morning. "This firm has deep expertise to conduct a thorough and unflinching review of the facts -- wherever they may lead."
Fitzgerald said Friday morning that Schmidt's employment status with the school had not changed. Schmidt received his master's degree from the school in 1985. He has been an employee of the athletic department since taking a job as an assistant athletic trainer with the football program in 1986.
Schmidt did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning.
Fitzgerald said the school has thus far received 257 unique complaints about Anderson through a hotline it established in February for his former patients.
Schmidt, who has been at Michigan since 1983, told university police in December 2018 that he was frequently in the room when Anderson treated athletes. Schmidt said he never saw Anderson do anything inappropriate. According to a police report, he called Anderson a "personal friend" and a "very incredible doctor" with a good bedside manner.
Grewal joined other attorneys who have said that current athletic director Warde Manuel mishandled a complaint about Anderson in 2018. Manuel received a letter from former wrestler Tad Deluca in July 2018 explaining how Anderson had sexually assaulted him when Deluca was a student in the mid-1970s. Deluca's letter prompted a police investigation. According to the police report, Manuel first forwarded the letter to the university's general counsel's office. University policy for handling claims of sexual assault is to first report them to the campus Title IX coordinator. Deluca's attorney, Parker Stinar, said Manuel's actions are troubling.
"The University of Michigan not following their own policies indicates they were covering something up," Stinar told the Detroit Free Press earlier this month. "Certainly it shows they wanted to approach the Anderson case differently than other cases."
The university has hired WilmerHale, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, to conduct an investigation into the school's previous responses to complaints about Anderson. A Michigan spokesman said WilmerHale will have access to whatever information it needs to conduct a thorough investigation and that the firm will release a report of its findings to the public.
Deluca said he informed his wrestling coach, Bill Johannesen, and then-athletic director Don Canham about Anderson's unnecessary rectal exams. An anonymous track athlete filed a lawsuit claiming that two former track coaches, Ron Warhurst and Jack Harvey, also laughed when told about Anderson's conduct. Johannesen told The Associated Press he does not remember any complaints about Anderson. Canham died in 2005.
John Shea, an attorney representing Harvey and Warhurst, told ESPN the two coaches have no recollection of any conversation like the one described in the track athlete's lawsuit.
"Jack and Ron say that what Doe alleges didn't occur," Shea said.
According to statements made by some of his former patients to police and in civil lawsuits, Anderson required his patients to submit to rectal exams and fondled their genitals when they visited him for common sports injuries, such as elbow injuries, ankle injuries and turf burn. Other former athletes say Anderson asked inappropriate questions about their sex life. One patient told police that the doctor exposed himself in the exam room and made the patient touch his penis. Another said he visited Anderson for a pituitary gland issue, and the doctor made him lie fully naked on an exam table before grabbing his genitals "like a gear shifter."
The group of attorneys who filed Friday morning's court documents say they represent more than 100 alleged victims of Anderson. The legal group, composed of four different law firms, also represented the majority of claimants in a lawsuit against Michigan State University related to former doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse. Michigan State paid $500 million to settle those claims.