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Schembechler’s Family: ‘Bo Was Not Aware’ of Sexual Abuse

Bo Schembechler’s second wife, his other son and daughter-in-law issued a statement, saying the famed Michigan football coach never knew about Dr. Robert E. Anderson’s sexual abuse.

“It is telling to us that Bo never spoke to any of us about inappropriate behavior by Dr. Anderson,” Cathy Schembechler, Bo’s second wife; his son, Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler III and Shemy’s wife, Megan, said in a statement issued through a spokesperson to the Detroit Free Press. “To the contrary, in our steadfast opinion, Bo was not aware of such conduct and assumed that any procedures were medically appropriate.

“As he demonstrated at many points in his career and to us as a family, Bo had a clear and compelling sense of right and wrong: he would not have tolerated misconduct, especially toward any of his players, family members, coaches or to anyone associated with the University of Michigan’s football program. If Bo had known of inappropriate conduct, we are certain that he would have stopped it immediately, reported it, and had Dr. Anderson removed from the University.”

Bo Schembechler Was a Flawed Man, Not Hero, of His Time

This comes less than a week after Matt Schembechler, the son of Bo and his first wife, and former Wolverines football players Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson shared graphic details of Anderson’s sexual abuse. Additionally, they said that the famous coach knew about Anderson’s abuse but failed to act.

“Anderson’s abuse was the worst kept secret at Michigan,” Matt said Thursday. “Anderson was able to continue this abuse for so long because he was supported by a culture that wanted to preserve the reputation.”

The younger Schembechler said that Anderson sexually molested him when he was 10 years old, but when he told his father, Bo allegedly became physical with him.

‘Worst Kept Secret’: Survivors Share Details of Michigan Doctor’s Abuse, Bo Schembechler’s Failure to Act

But, there was an online petition circling from the ex-players’ peers defending Schembechler’s legacy. It has since been closed. 

“Our experiences tell us that the Bo Schembechler we knew would never have tolerated any abuse or mistreatment of his players, his staff, or any other individual,” the petition on Change.org said. “We believe firmly, that if he were aware of such behavior, Coach Schembechler would have acted immediately to put a stop to it and would have made sure anyone responsible for it would have been removed from the University of Michigan football program.

“We want to be clear, as a group we are sympathetic to all victims of sexual abuse. Yearly physicals by family doctors, or athletic physicals by a university doctor were the same physicals as performed by the United States military. There was no reason to suspect abuse in those circumstances. If Coach Schembechler was aware of any criminal or sexual abuse, as we stated above, in our opinion, he would have been outraged and taken action immediately. It is reasonable to assume that Coach Schembechler, like many at the time, believed the physicals were not abusive but rather performed in accordance with standard medical practices.”

And two weeks ago, current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said he did not believe Schembechler would stand by if he knew of Anderson’s abuse. 

“There was nothing that I saw in the times when I was a kid here, my dad was on staff or when I played here,” Harbaugh said. “…He never sat on anything. He never procrastinated on anything. He took care of it before the sun went down. That’s the Bo Schembechler that I know. There’s nothing that ever was swept under the rug or ignored. He addressed everything in a timely fashion. That’s the Bo Schembechler that I knew.” 

However, a group of dozens of former football players and other Anderson survivors will be holding a press conference on Wednesday morning to go public and detail more allegations of abuse.

Anderson worked at the school for nearly 40 years, from 1966 to 2003. He regularly administered athletes’ physicals, and hundreds of former patients have said Anderson abused and harassed them during routine medical visits.

An investigation by the WilmerHale firm earlier this year confirmed the reports, saying Anderson’s behavior was “not consistent with any recognized standard of care and was, on the contrary, grossly improper.” 


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