“Dr. Anderson was part of the University of Michigan team. 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."
- Matt Schembechler, who was abused by Dr. Robert E. Anderson
Kwiatkowski and Johnson said it was common knowledge among their teammates that Anderson abused players during the mandatory physicals they had to get from him. 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 to 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.
“Bo looked at me and said ‘Toughen up,’” Kwiatkowski said.
Matt Schembechler, 62, said Anderson abused him during a 1969 physical that he needed to get in order to play youth football. He said when he told his father, who was then in his first year of his iconic run with the Wolverines, his father punched him hard in the chest.
He told ESPN on Wednesday that his mother invited the athletic director at the time, Don Canham, to their home so he could describe the abuse. And he told The Detroit News that Canham fired Anderson “nearly immediately.”
“Bo went to him and said, ‘I need him, he is our team doctor, reinstate him,’ and he did,” the 62-year-old Schembechler said. Canham died in 2005, one year before Bo Schembechler. Anderson died in 2008.
A report commissioned by the university and released last month found that Bo Schembechler and other officials were aware of complaints about Anderson, but he was allowed to remain at the school for decades.
Asked why they decided to come forward about the abuse, Johnson said it was important to put faces to the allegations and to make sure there could be no doubt that Bo Schembechler was aware of the sexual abuse. He also talked about how the abuse has affected his life.
“Because of my experience at Michigan, I did not trust doctors,” Johnson said, adding that he “had trust issues, relationship issues and intimacy issues.” He also said he “lost two marriages” because of the abuse.
The university said in a statement Thursday that it is committed to resolving claims made by Anderson’s victims and is continuing confidential mediation ordered by a judge. “Our sympathy for all of Anderson’s victims is deep and unwavering, and we thank them for their bravery in coming forward,” the school said in its statement, which didn’t mention Bo Schembechler once.
Bo Schembechler led the Wolverines from 1969 to 1989 and had 194 wins at college football’s winningest school. His career record was 234-65-8, including six seasons at Miami of Ohio. He died in 2006 at age 77.