Novi — The son of former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler and two former players spoke Thursday about their allegations that the coach knew they were sexually abused by Dr. Robert Anderson but did nothing to stop it.
Matt Schembechler and former Wolverines Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson spoke at a news conference at the Sheraton Detroit Novi, saying they were assaulted several times by Anderson and alerted the coach.
“Don’t get me wrong, Bo was a good coach,” said Johnson. “But, for me, in my remembrance of him at this point, is he allowed kids 17 or 18 years old to continue to be assaulted when he could have did something about it.”
In an interview Wednesday with The Detroit News, Matthew Schembechler said he told his famous father in 1969 that Anderson had sexually molested him during a physical examination to play in a youth football league when he was 10 years old and weighed 60 pounds. The elder Schembechler, who was coaching his first season, went into a rage, told him he didn’t want to hear about it and punched him in the chest so hard that he flew across the kitchen floor, his son said.
Now 62, Schembechler said that his mother invited then-UM Athletic Director Don Canham over to their house so he could tell Canham what had happened with Anderson.
“(Canham) talked to Anderson and terminated him nearly immediately,” said Schembechler, who lives in Ann Arbor. “Bo went to him and said, ‘I need him, he is our team doctor, reinstate him,’ and he did.”
Schembechler discussed how his father failed to protect him and others from Anderson, a longtime UM physician who is deceased but accused by more than 800 people of sexual assault.
Also detailing their stories of abuse were Kwiatkowski, a UM offensive lineman in 1977-79, who says he was treated and abused by Anderson four times, and Gilvanni Johnson, a wide receiver from 1982-86, who alleges he was treated and abused by Anderson more than 15 times.
Mick Grewal, an attorney for the three men, said they “are coming forward now to set the record straight.”
A May report outlining an investigation of Anderson showed three football players alerted Schembechler to Anderson’s behavior. One of the players said Anderson fondled him and gave him a rectal exam. Soon after, they approached Schembechler and questioned the exam.
Anderson served UM as the head of University Health Services and team physician from 1966-2003. He simultaneously worked as a training physician for the UM Athletic Department beginning in 1968. He died in 2008.
In February 2020, former UM student Robert Julian Stone publicly accused Anderson of sexually abusing him in 1971. His story brought out 850 other accusers, mostly men, with similar claims. They are currently in mediation with UM.
Schembechler, who coached the UM football team from 1969 until 1989, died in 2006. Canham, who was athletic director at UM from 1968 to 1988, died in 2005.
In a joint statement Thursday, UM President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents responded to the latest allegations.
“Our sympathy for all of Anderson’s victims is deep and unwavering, and we thank them for their bravery in coming forward,” the statement said. “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.”
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