Matt Schembechler, son of legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, says his father knew of team physician Robert Anderson's now-notorious abuse. How? Matt claims he, himself, was abused by Anderson while receiving a sports physical at age 10.
The elder Schembechler was in his first year of a Michigan head coaching career that spanned from 1969 to 1989 when Matt told his adoptive father that Anderson had fondled him and conducted "an anal probe" as part of a pee-wee football physical. Upon hearing his son's claim, Schembechler became physically violent with Matt and his mother, and in fact struck the child.
"That was the first time he closed-fist punched me," Matt told ESPN. "It knocked me all the way across the kitchen."
As reported by ESPN, Matt plans to address his claims further in a news conference this afternoon alongside two former Michigan football players who say they also attempted to warn Bo Schembechler about Anderson's abuse. Anderson and Bo Schembechler died in 2008 and 2006, respectively — years before any claims about these issues became public. Matt asserts that Bo didn't want to hear about his encounter with Anderson and went out of his way to ensure Anderson's position as team physician was secure.
"Bo went to bat for Anderson and got him back working again," Matt said. "He wasn't going to have anybody change his team."
Matt told ESPN that his mother visited Don Canham, then the university's athletic director, shortly after they told Bo about Anderson's abuse. Matt said he remembers his mother saying Canham was prepared to fire Anderson but that Bo intervened.
Anderson worked at the University of Michigan from 1966 through 2003. Nearly 900 of former patients — many of them former Wolverine athletes — now say that Anderson sexually abused and verbally harassed them during the treatment of routine medical issues.
The law firm WilmerHale, investigating a string of revelations regarding Anderson that began in 2018 with one former wrestler's personal account, determined in 2020 that multiple university employees failed to act when presented with credible complaints that Anderson was sexually abusing his patients.
Bo Schembechler, who won 13 Big Ten Conference championships as Michigan's head coach, has already been implicated in the Anderson scandal. A former student radio announcer said last summer that he told Schembechler about Anderson in the early 1980s. Several former football players also have told investigators that they spoke to the coach about Anderson's treatment when they were playing at Michigan, ESPN reported.
Glenn Schembechler, the only biological son among Bo and wife Millie's four children and bearer of his father's true name, previously told ESPN he was certain no one ever told his father about Anderson's abuse. "I can tell you unequivocally no one ever told Bo," Glenn Schembechler said last summer. "Bo would have done something. ... Bo would have fired him."
Some former players, including current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, have said that they believe Bo Schembechler would have taken action if he was presented with evidence that Anderson was molesting his patients.
Matt Schembechler visited Anderson twice more — once in high school and once again before his freshman football season at Western Michigan University. He physically stopped the doctor from touching him during the second of the three visits, and Anderson didn't attempt to touch him during the third.
Matt says he is not concerned about his father's legacy, which includes a larger-than-life bronze statue outside Michigan's football practice facility, as well as a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame. Bo Schembechler succeeded Canham as athletic director from 1988 to 1990.
"He was a great coach and made a lot of people happy. He made a ton of money for the University of Michigan filling that stadium up. He provided, for most of those kids that played for him, a great experience. Maybe it was the greatest experience of their life," Matt told ESPN. "I think he was a horrible human being."