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Former Michigan Players: Bo Schembechler Ignored Warnings About Dr. Robert Anderson

Blake SchusterContributor IJune 10, 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

Two former Michigan football players joined Matt Schembechler, son of longtime Wolverines head coach and athletic director Bo, in speaking about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of former team doctor Robert Anderson.

Dan Kwiatkowski, Gilvanni Johnson and Matt Schembechler said Bo Schembechler ignored repeated warnings about Anderson's behavior, including an assault on Matt Schembechler when he was 10 years old. 

"[Bo] believed no man is more important than the team. Dr. Anderson was part of Bo's team, therefore he was more important than any man," Matt Schembechler said during a Thursday press conference. "I'm coming forward for my own healing and to help prevent people and institutions from exploiting the trust and power given to them in the future."

More than 800 have accused Anderson of sexual abuse, according to a Detroit News investigation by Kim Kozlowski last October. Anderson died in 2008. Matt Schembechler, 62, said Anderson molested him during an exam in 1969. After telling his father what happened, the coach told his son he didn't want to hear anything more and became violent with both Matt and his mother, Millie. 

"That was the first time he closed-fist punched me," Matt told ESPN's Dan Murphy. "It knocked me all the way across the kitchen."

Michele Steele @MicheleSteele

UM, through a spokesperson, shared this statement today and said they have nothing else to add at this time. pic.twitter.com/r6hDELbKRj

Nearly a decade later, in 1977, Kwiatkowski claims Anderson assaulted him during his first physical. He also told the coach about his experience with the doctor only for Schembechler to allegedly tell the offensive tackle to "toughen up." 

In 1982, Anderson abused Johnson for the first time. After telling his head coach about what happened, nothing changed. Johnson alleged Thursday that Anderson assaulted him 15-20 more times in the following years. 

“He never discussed it with me again,” Johnson said. “Other players told me not to bring it up with Bo again, that Bo might pull my scholarship. I was told not to rock the boat.”

On May 1, the University admitted the sexual assaults occurred, noting the "sad reality" suffered at the hands of a school employee. Bo Schembechler's knowledge of that abuse apparently predated whatever the rest of the University knew. 

“Bo was a good coach, a legendary coach but my remembrance of him at this point is you allowed kids, 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds, to continue to be assaulted when you could’ve did something about it," Johnson said. “Being a great coach doesn’t give you a pathway to let other things happen to kids."

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