ANN ARBOR, Mich. – One of late University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler’s sons and two of his former players described in detail Thursday how they were molested by the team's longtime doctor and how Schembechler turned a blind eye when they told him about the abuse, telling one to “toughen up” and punching his son in anger.
Matt Schembechler, 62, and former Wolverines players Daniel Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson told similar stories about how Dr. Robert E. Anderson, who died in 2008, molested and digitally penetrated them during physical exams decades ago. They also talked about how Bo Schembechler, a Michigan icon whose statue stands outside a university building that bears his name, refused to protect them and allowed Anderson to continue abusing players and other patients for years.
Anderson “was supported by a culture that placed the reputation of the university above the health and safety of the students,” Matt Schembechler said during a news conference in the Detroit suburb of Novi. “That is the culture that made my father a legend and placed his statue in front of Schembechler Hall."
“Dr. Anderson was part of the University of Michigan team,” he continued. "He was part of Bo’s team, therefore, he was more important than any man. It’s very clear that Bo and the university always put themselves before any student-athlete or son, just to support the brand.”
The three are among hundreds of men who were allegedly abused by Anderson during his nearly four decades working for the university — a period in which he also treated staffers, their families and other patients. And their assertion that Bo Schembechler, who died in 2006, knew about the abuse and allowed it to continue calls into question his legacy at the university.
Kwiatkowski and Johnson said it was common knowledge among their teammates that Anderson abused players during the physicals they had to get from him, which Johnson said players jokingly referred to as “seeing Dr. Anal.” Both players said Bo Schembechler broke a promise to protect them that he made while recruiting them to the school.
“Bo promised them that if I attended the University of Michigan and played football that Bo would be a father to me and look after me like I was family,” Kwiatkowski said, referring to his parents. “We were a poor, working-class family and my parents were very worried about my future and being able to pay for medical bills. Bo promised my family that he would keep me safe, make sure I got the best medical treatment. We were sold.”
Kwiatkowski, an offensive lineman from 1977-79, said Anderson abused him on four occasions. He said that during his first mandatory physical his freshman year, Anderson groped his genitals and inserted fingers in his rectum. The former player said he approached Schembechler after one practice and told him about the physical.