(WXYZ) — The son of the most revered coach to roam the sidelines at the University of Michigan said Thursday that we don’t know the Bo Schembechler that he did.
“I understand the reverence people have for my father, including Jim Harbaugh, but I know the truth,” Matt Schembechler said.
Matt, along with former football players Gilvanni Johnson and David Kwiatakowski, faced a dozen television cameras to tell the world that they were abused by team physician Dr. Robert Anderson, and that Bo Schembechler knew about it.
Matt Schembechler says he was a victim of Anderson’s back in 1969 when he needed a physical to play youth football. Matt was only 10.
“I told my mom as soon as I got home, as I was uncomfortable and shaken,” Matt said. “She was a registered nurse. And after she heard what Anderson did, she knew something was wrong and wanted me to tell my dad in her presence.”
When he did, Matt said his father erupted.
“He lost it. He screamed ‘I don’t want to hear this, I’m not hearing this.’ I tried to tell him repeatedly, but my effort earned me a punch in the chest,” he said.
Matt said that when he alerted athletic director Don Canham to Anderson’s abuses, Canham agreed to fire him. But his father, the coach, reversed the decision.
Today, more than 850 victims of Anderson—mostly men—have come forward.
Kwiatkowski and Johnson, who played on different teams under Schembechler, also broke their silence. Each said the legendary coach failed to respond to their reports of abuse.
“After practice one day, I approached Bo and reported to him that Dr. Anderson has digitally raped my rectum,” Kwiatskowki said. “Bo looked at me and said toughen up. Bo knew. I knew. Then, I was on my own and Bo was never going to protect us from Dr. Anderson. “
Gilvanni Johnson, who played for Michigan in the 1980s, said he told Shembechler fondled his genitals and penetrated him with his finger.
“People are saying that Bo didn’t know. He did know,” Johnson said. “And the only way that was going to get out was for me myself to let people know he did know. I told him myself. I told him myself. And our relationship from that point went downhill.”
At least four men now claim that they alerted the celebrated coach to Anderson’s abuses, but only one is named Schembechler.
To say Matt and Bo had a strained relationship would be an understatement. In 1999, Matt sued his father, alleging he was trying to ruin his sports memorabilia business.
That same year, Matt was part of a critical magazine article that painted his father as a bully. Today, Matt says he’s not trying to settle a score, just tell the truth.
“I don’t hate Bo,” he said Thursday. “I just don’t like him.”
His father, who died in 2006, was not here to tell his side, but plenty of others are telling theirs. And today, the university that thought they knew the Bo Schembechler story is reckoning with the new, dark chapter being written every day.
“Don’t get me wrong, Bo’s a good coach,” Johnson said. “For me, my remembrance of him at this point is you allowed kids, 17 and 18-year-olds to continue to be assaulted when you could have done something about it.”
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at email@example.com or at (248) 827-9466.