A son of the former Michigan Football coach Bo Schembechler said he told his father that former team doctor Robert Anderson molested him during a physical exam in the 1960s and that the revered coach ignored the complaint and did everything possible to ensure Anderson played his role on the team retains.
Matt Schembechler, 62, said he was sexually abused by Anderson when he was 10 years old, within a year after his adoptive father was hired to coach the Wolverines and his family moved to Ann Arbor. Matt said Anderson petted him and “put an anal probe” on him when he visited the doctor for an exercise checkup before joining the pee soccer team. According to Matt, when he shared these details with Bo, the trainer told him he didn’t want to hear about it and then became physically violent with both Matt and his mother.
“That was the first time he hit me with his fist,” Matt told ESPN. “It threw me all the way through the kitchen.”
Matt plans to move on to his allegations in a Thursday afternoon press conference along with two former Michigan soccer players who say they also tried to warn Bo Schembechler of Anderson’s abuse. Anderson and Bo Schembechler both died years before any claims on these issues became public.
Anderson worked at the University of Michigan from 1966 to 2003. For most of his time at school, he worked closely with the sports department, treating athlete injuries and performing annual physical exams. Hundreds of former patients – many of them former Wolverine athletes – now say that Anderson sexually abused and molested them in various ways while handling routine medical problems. In interviews and court documents, Anderson’s former patients say the doctor assaulted them, petted them, and made a series of inappropriate sexual comments, along with many other examples of wrongdoing. Bo Schembechler died in 2006. Anderson died in 2008.
After a 2018 letter from a former university wrestler sparked a police investigation, in 2020 the university hired the WilmerHale law firm to see how previous complaints about Anderson were being handled. WilmerHale has found several University employees have failed to act upon credible complaints that Anderson sexually abused his patients.
Matt Schembechler isn’t the first to claim Bo knew about Anderson’s abuse. A former student radio announcer said last summer that he told the coach about Anderson in the early 1980s. Several former soccer players have also told investigators that they spoke to Bo about Anderson’s treatment with varying degrees of specificity when they played in Michigan.
Matt told ESPN that he had a rocky relationship with Bo during their life together. Matt sued his father and the University of Michigan in the late 1990s over a dispute over a sports memorabilia company that Matt ran. Around this time, he shared some of the details of his upbringing in an article in GQ magazine describing Bo as a tyrant at home and on the practice field.
Bo Schembechler won 13 Big Ten championships during his two decades coaching the Wolverines. From 1988 to 1990 he was also the university’s sports director. In 1993 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. And in 2014 the school commissioned a “larger than life” bronze statue by Schembechler. which is now in front of the soccer team’s practice area.
Other former players, including current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, have said they believe Bo Schembechler would have taken action if presented with evidence that Anderson was molesting his patients.
Bo adopted Matt and two other sons – Chip and Geoffrey – after marrying their mother, Millie, in 1968. Bo and Millie later had another son named Glenn.
Matt told ESPN that his mother visited Don Canham, then the university’s sports director, shortly after they told Bo about Anderson’s abuse. Matt, who was 10 at the time, said he remembered his mother saying Canham was ready to fire Anderson but Bo stepped in.
“Bo went to hit Anderson and get him back to work,” Matt said. “He didn’t want anyone to change his team.”
Anderson treated Michigan’s athletes for more than 30 years. Nearly 900 of his former patients have sought legal counsel and claim they have been abused by him. Matt also hired a lawyer and is suing the university.
Millie Schembechler died in 1992. Canham died in 2005. There is no documentation today of meetings with Anderson or medical records of Matt’s appointments. Matt said he shared parts of the story with older brother Chip, who died in 2003.
Attempts to ask Matt’s two living brothers for comment have been unsuccessful.
Glenn Schembechler, known as Shemy and Bo’s only biological son, previously told ESPN he was certain no one had ever told his father about Anderson’s abuse.
“I can tell you clearly that Bo was never told,” said Glenn Schembechler last summer. “Bo would have done something … Bo would have fired him.”
Matt Schembechler said he remembered hearing other athletes talk about Anderson growing up with the football program, but that he never shared the details of what happened to him because it was embarrassing. He said he had not raised the issue with his father again because Bo “made it clear that it should not be discussed”.
Matt said he visited Anderson two more times for physical exercise – once in high school and once before starting his first season as a football player at Western Michigan University. Matt said he grabbed Anderson’s wrist when the doctor reached for his genitals at their next appointment. He said Anderson made no attempt to molest him on the third and final visit.
“I stopped him the second time and the third time I didn’t let him touch me,” said Matt.
Matt said he was stepping forward now to try to let people know that “you can’t abuse people and get away with it no matter how many football games you’ve won.” He said he doesn’t have a strong sense of how Bo’s coaching legacy should be remembered by the university or its fans.
“He’s been a great coach and made a lot of people happy. He made a lot of money for the University of Michigan filling this stadium. He’s had a great experience for most of the kids who played for him. Maybe it was that “The greatest experience of a lifetime,” Matt told ESPN, “I think he was a terrible person.”