Bo Schembechler's Son Discusses Coach's Failure to Protect Athletes from Abuse

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 9, 2021

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1986:  Head Coach Bo Schembechler of the Michigan Wolverines talks with an official while his team warms up before the start of an NCAA football game circa 1986. Schembechler coached the Wolverines from 1969-89. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The son of former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler announced at a Thursday press conference he was sexually abused by Dr. Robert Anderson, according to the Detroit Free PressKirkland Crawford and David Jesse.

Matt Schembechler told Jesse Wednesday that he told his father he was sexually assaulted by Anderson in 1969:

"The thing with Dr. Anderson (and) Bo has stuck with me for years. It's been hurtful, I felt betrayed. The coverage of what happened at MSU with Dr. Nassar really woke me up."

Anderson worked for Michigan from 1966 to 2003 and occupied a role within the Wolverines athletic department between 1981 and 1999. In response to allegations about the former team doctor, the university brought in the law firm WilmerHale to launch an investigation.

WilmerHale released its report in May and found that Anderson "engaged in sexual misconduct with patients on countless occasions."

"Dr. Anderson’s misconduct ranged from performing medically unnecessary hernia and rectal examinations on patients seeking treatment for wholly unrelated issues, to manually stimulating male patients and causing them to ejaculate, to quid pro quo arrangements in which he provided medical services in exchange for sexual contact," the report read.

One area of focus amid the allegations was how much Bo Schembechler was aware of the allegations at the time of the incidents and what—if anything—he did to alert school officials of Anderson's actions.

WilmerHale collected information from over 800 people, including 300 who were interviewed by the law firm. The investigation found that "a senior university administrator was told about Dr. Anderson’s misconduct several times between 1978 or 1979 and 1981 but did not take appropriate action."

One former player told WilmerHale that he reached out to Schembechler to say he didn't feel comfortable going to Anderson following an examination. He said Schembechler responded that physicals were a requirement to play football.

The same player said another coach "used the threat of an examination with Dr. Anderson as a motivational tool." The coach denied the claim.

Another former player said Schembechler instructed him to "toughen up" when he asked why Anderson performed a rectal exam on him.

A student-athlete who was at the school in the early 1980s said he received a digital rectal exam at least three times when seeing Anderson for migraines. The student said he informed Schembechler, who said he should report the allegations to then-athletic director Don Canham. The student said he spoke with Canham in 1982 and 1983 but that it didn't appear Canham acted on the claims.

Schembechler, who spent 21 seasons as Michigan's coach, died in 2006. University officials unveiled a statue of him in 2014, and there have since been calls for the school to remove the statue as Anderson's misconduct has come to light.


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