Matt Schembechler, the son of the late University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, said the team’s former doctor, Robert Anderson, sexually assaulted him when he was 10. But when he told his dad about it, the legendary coach did nothing to stop it—and even used violence to keep him quiet, he says.
Schembechler, 62, made the bombshell claims in an interview with ESPN ahead of a Thursday press conference with former Michigan players Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson, who have previously accused Anderson of sexually abusing them.
He alleges Anderson first assaulted him in 1969 by anally probing him during a physical he needed for youth football. But when he approached his dad about it, he says, the elder Schembechler lashed out, punching his son and attacking his mother, Millie.
“That was the first time he closed-fist punched me,” Schembechler, who was adopted by Bo in 1968, told ESPN. “It knocked me all the way across the kitchen.”
Millie then went to the university’s athletic director, Don Canham, to report the abuse. Canham was ready to fire Anderson, Schembechler alleges, but Bo interceded.
“Bo went to bat for Anderson and got him back working again,” Schembechler said. “He wasn’t going to have anybody change his team.”
Schembechler went to Anderson twice more for physicals and said the doctor tried to molest him again. Anderson continued working for the university for 30 years.
The allegations are the biggest revelation yet in the case against Anderson, which has spanned 50 years. Law firm WilmerHale was contracted last year by the University of Michigan to investigate Anderson’s misconduct after over 100 people made claims.
In its report last month, the firm concluded that Anderson, who worked at the university from 1966 to 2003, was a serial abuser. It also found that university officials, including Bo Schembechler, knew about Anderson’s abuse and did nothing to stop it. Kwiatkowski and Johnson served as confidential sources for the report.
The elder Schembechler died in 2006, while Anderson died in 2008.
The report said Anderson abused players on “countless occasions,” including through unnecessary rectal exams, inappropriate touching, and by exchanging medical treatment for sexual contact. It said 600 people came forward with their experiences, with 300 of them sitting for interviews.
Due to the length of time since the events, it couldn’t confirm whether the events occurred as described, but due to the similarities in witness testimonials, it concluded that Anderson “engaged in a pervasive, decades-long, destructive pattern of sexual misconduct.”
Schembechler’s disclosure is another crack in the fractured father-son relationship. In 1999, he sued both his father and the university, claiming the two interfered in his quest to turn old stadium bleachers into souvenirs. That suit was dismissed.