The son of legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler said Thursday that his father betrayed him after he told him he’d been sexually abused by the team doctor during a physical.
Matt Schembechler said he was 10 at the time and playing football for a “Junior Wolverines” team in 1969 when his father dispatched him to see Dr. Robert Anderson, whose main job was taking care of players on the university’s football team and other athletes on campus.
When he came home and told his father that Anderson had fondled his genitals and “conducted an invasive rectal exam with his finger,” Matt Schembechler said his father reacted with fury — at him.
“I don’t want to hear this,” Schembechler screamed, according to his son. “I’m not hearing this.”
That was followed by “a punch in the chest.”
“This was the beginning of the end of my relationship with him,” Matt Schembechler said of his father, who died in 2006. “I hoped my father would protect me, but he didn’t.”
Matt Schembechler, 62, is one of the hundreds of men who were sexually abused by Anderson, who was a physician at the campus for 37 years and died in 2008.
His testimony, and that of two former Michigan football players who say they were abused by Anderson, was a direct hit at the reputation of Bo Schembechler, who led the Wolverines to 13 Big Ten football championships and is a revered figure in Ann Arbor.
Joining him at the news conference Thursday arranged by their lawyers were the two former players, Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson, who also described how they were abused by Anderson.
In response, the university’s president, Mark Schlissel, and the Board of Regents released a statement which said, in part: “We condemn and apologize for the tragic misconduct of the late Dr. Robert Anderson, who left the University 17 years ago and died 13 years ago. We are committed to resolving their claims and to continuing the court-guided confidential mediation process.”
A federal class-action lawsuit was filed May 20 alleging that the University of Michigan put students at risk by failing to “enforce appropriate policies and procedures to prevent sexual violence on campus,” The Detroit News reported.
The latest accusations came a month after a report commissioned by the university said Schembechler and other university officials were aware of complaints about Anderson but allowed him to keep working on the campus — and preying on student-athletes.
That report has already driven a wedge in the Schembechler family. Another of Schembechler’s sons, Shemy Schembechler, expressed skepticism last month that his father had ignored complaints about Anderson. But Thursday, Shemy Schembechler tweeted, “I love my brother Matt and I pray for him often.”
Michigan’s current coach, Jim Harbaugh, who played under Schembechler, also defended the former coach.
Matt Schembechler said his mother believed him back in 1969 and defied his dad by having him tell his Anderson story to the university’s athletic director at the time, Don Canham.
“OK, I’ll handle this Millie,” Canham replied.
Canham fired Anderson, but “Bo went to him and said, ‘I need him, he is our team doctor, reinstate him,'” Matt Schembechler said. “And he did.”
So when Matt Schembechler needed another football physical in the 10th grade, he said he wound up back in Anderson’s office, where he said he was groped again.
“The final time I saw Anderson was as a college freshman for another physical exam as I was about to start football at Western Michigan,” he said in a statement. “This time, Anderson did not lay a hand on me.”
Canham, who was the athletics director from 1968 to 1988, died in 2005.
The Anderson investigation was sparked by former Michigan athletes like wrestler Tad DeLuca, who said he was booted off the team back in the 1970s after he told his disbelieving coaches that the disgraced doctor had routinely fondled him and gave him unnecessary rectal exams.
Investigators in Washtenaw County, Michigan, confirmed that university staffers were “aware of rumors and allegations of misconduct” by Anderson, who was known on the campus as “Dr. Drop Your Drawers Anderson.”
The Anderson case echoes the Dr. Richard Strauss scandal at Ohio State University, where hundreds of men — mostly athletes — have accused the university of failing to protect them from the predator doctor.