NOVI, Mich. -- Matt Schembechler, son of former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, and two former Wolverine players, say Bo knew about the repeated sexual abuse by former university doctor Robert Anderson but did nothing to stop it.
Speaking at a press conference in Novi on Thursday, Schembechler, Dan Kwiatkowski and Gilvanni Johnson laid out claims that they reported abuse by Anderson to the coach, only to go ignored, as the doctor continued to abuse patients for the better part of three decades.
A 240-page report commissioned by the university found that Anderson sexually abused patients, with reports saying there are upwards of 800 survivors of his abuse.
Matt Schembechler, 62, says he was first abused by Anderson in 1969 at the age of 10 years old. When he told his adoptive father, he said he didn’t want to hear about it.
When the issue was reported to then-UM Athletic Director Don Canham, Anderson was terminated, only to be promptly reinstated, under the directive of Schembechler, according to a report from the Detroit News.
Several years later, it was offensive lineman Dan Kwiatkowski who reported the abuse to Schembechler, and he was told to “toughen up.” More than a decade after Schembechler was apparently first notified of abuse, Gilvanni Johnson says he was abused as a freshman at his first physical, and yet nothing was done.
Both former players spoke Thursday, detailing the alleged abuse by Anderson, saying the doctor, during routine physical exams, digitally penetrated their anuses, fondled their genitals and allegedly repeated this abuse for decades to countless athletes, mostly young men.
"Don't get me wrong, Bo was a good coach," Johnson said. "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."
Johnson and Kwiatkowski both say Anderson’s abuse was well-known within the program, as he was often referred to as “Dr. Anal” and players would joke that someone was “Dr. Andersized” after going to see him.
“We now know because of survivors coming forward that Anderson’s abuse of players, students, for over 30 years was the worst-kept secret at the University,” Matt Schembechler said Thursday. “I understand the reverence people have for my father, including Jim Harbaugh, but I know the truth -- Anderson abused me and countless others over three decades.”
When asked what his father would have to say about the allegations and public comments Thursday, Schembechler said "I can't repeat that in public."
"Honestly, I could care less what his opinion was. I don’t hate Bo. I just don’t like him.”
Johnson says after reporting the abuse to Schembechler, he was told it would be looked into. Instead, Johnson says he was “in the dog house” with the coach, and denied the opportunity to also play basketball at Michigan, which he was promised before coming to school.
“I’m not going to come here and sit in front of all you people and tell you I was abused. I was raped, as far as I was concerned, my freshman year,” Kwiatkowski said.
Kwiatkowski says one time he was sick with flu-like symptoms and a heavy cough. He asked a teammate who had also recently been sick about his experience when he went to see the team’s doctor to get medicine. The teammate said he was digitally penetrated by Anderson during the visit.
“I laid there for six weeks, sick, because I didn’t want the abuse,” Kwiatkowski said.
While the allegations have been public for more than a year, Schembechler says he chose to go public now because “the opportunity was there and I think socially we’re ready to accept this and handle it responsibly.”
As for what he hopes his story will accomplish, he hopes “nobody even considers doing this to another kid in college.”
Schembechler, Johnson and Kwiatkowski, along with attorney Mick Grewal, are calling for the University of Michigan to apologize for allowing the abuse to happen. Previously, Grewal says, the university only apologized for what Anderson did.
In a joint statement released Thursday, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents addressed 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."
Schembechler was the Wolverines' head coach from 1969 until 1989. He died in 2006.
Anderson worked as the head of University Health Services and as the football team's physician from 1966-2003. He died in 2003.
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