Schembechler's family says 'Bo was not aware' of Robert Anderson's sexual assaults at Michigan

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Bo Schembechler's second wife, along with his son and daughter-in-law, issued a full-throated defense of the famed Michigan football coach Tuesday afternoon, saying he never knew about sexual assaults of his players.

"It is telling to us that Bo never spoke to any of us about inappropriate behavior by Dr. Anderson," Cathy Schembechler, Bo's second wife; his son, Glenn "Shemy" Schembechler III and Shemy's wife, Megan, said in a statement issued through a spokesperson. "To the contrary, in our steadfast opinion, Bo was not aware of such conduct and assumed that any procedures were medically appropriate.

"As he demonstrated at many points in his career and to us as a family, Bo had a clear and compelling sense of right and wrong: he would not have tolerated misconduct, especially toward any of his players, family members, coaches or to anyone associated with the University of Michigan’s football program. If Bo had known of inappropriate conduct, we are certain that he would have stopped it immediately, reported it, and had Dr. Anderson removed from the University."

The statement comes less than a week after another of Bo's sons, whose mother was Bo's first wife, Millie, alleged he had been sexually assaulted at the age of 10 by Anderson, who was a team doctor. Matt Schembechler also said he told Bo about it and was met by violence from Bo.

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Bo Schembechler died in 2006. Anderson died in 2008.

Also last week, two former players alleged they told Bo about the abuse.

Gilvanni Johnson and David Kwiatkowski both said the coach did nothing about it.

On Wednesday, a group of dozens of former football players and other Anderson survivors are scheduled to hold a news conference in front of Michigan Stadium detailing more allegations of abuse.

Other former players are defending their coach. Jim Brandstatter, the former Michigan offensive lineman under Schembechler and longtime voice of Wolverines football, said in radio interviews over the weekend that it's not fair to connect his former coach to Anderson.

Another group of ex-players have started an online petition to defend Schembechler's legacy.

"Our experiences tell us that the Bo Schembechler we knew would never have tolerated any abuse or mistreatment of his players, his staff, or any other individual," the petition on Change.org reads. "We believe firmly, that if he were aware of such behavior, Coach Schembechler would have acted immediately to put a stop to it and would have made sure anyone responsible for it would have been removed from the University of Michigan football program."

In May, an investigation conducted by the law firm WilmerHale concluded that Anderson's misconduct was reported "several times between 1978 and 1981," but that a "senior University administrator ... did not take appropriate action."

Bo Schembechler with his Michigan football players during practice in October, 1986 in Ann Arbor, before the game where he earned his 200th career victory.
Bo Schembechler with his Michigan football players during practice in October, 1986 in Ann Arbor, before the game where he earned his 200th career victory.

Hundreds of Michigan athletes have accused Anderson of sexually assaulting them, including fondling their genitals and giving them rectal exams, even when they showed up with sore elbows or sore throats. Other Michigan students have accused Anderson of giving out draft deferrals from the Vietnam War in exchange for sex acts. Hundreds of men have sued the university for not stopping Anderson. The cases are currently in mediation in federal court.

The Free Press has reached out to each member of the Board of Regents regarding the status of the statue of Bo Schembechler outside of Schembechler Hall on campus. None of them responded except chairwoman Denise Ilitch, who forwarded the statement released by the university during last week's news conference. It reads:

"Our sympathy for all of Anderson’s victims is deep and unwavering, and we thank them for their bravery in coming forward. 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."

Here is the full statement from Cathy Schembechler, Glenn "Shemy" Schembechler III and Shemy's wife, Megan:

"There are many ways to take the measure of a man, especially one as scrutinized as Bo Schembechler. You can judge him by his coaching record, the wins and losses give the illusion of a tidy summary. You could look at him by looking at the caliber of the people he surrounded himself with over his four decades of coaching, the teams, coaches, and staff who played for and worked with him, many of whom never fell out of touch with Bo. You could assess him through the testimonials of many of those individuals who have in recent days spoken out in defense of his memory and legacy. Perhaps you could get a sense of Bo Schembechler by talking to the hundreds — thousands more likely — of people whose lives were enriched by his enduring presence long after their playing days were over.

"We, however, measure Bo Schembechler by different standards, as a devoted husband and a father. We remember him in those intimate family moments that pass unnoticed to others but are indelibly stamped in our memories. We remember him at moments of celebration shared with the world, but also during quiet moments of advice and counsel. We remember that — even during the height of the season — Bo would come home for dinner to share stories of what had happened to him that day and to ask about our days.

"That Bo Schembechler was, and remains, deserving of our admiration and our love. It is telling to us that Bo never spoke to any of us about inappropriate behavior by Dr. Anderson. To the contrary, in our steadfast opinion, Bo was not aware of such conduct and assumed that any procedures were medically appropriate. As he demonstrated at many points in his career and to us as a family, Bo had a clear and compelling sense of right and wrong: he would not have tolerated misconduct, especially toward any of his players, family members, coaches or to anyone associated with the University of Michigan’s football program. If Bo had known of inappropriate conduct, we are certain that he would have stopped it immediately, reported it, and had Dr. Anderson removed from the University.

"Some will argue that the absence of proof is not definitive in situations such as these, but it is noteworthy that a 240-page report done by an outside, independent law firm retained by the University to look into Dr. Anderson’s conduct examined similar allegations but did not substantiate those claims.

"As painful as the last few days have been, we are confident the facts — and the truth — will ultimately win the day. We are confident that the veracity of each accuser will be examined, and that appropriate weight will be given to the sad reality that one of our family members has been for decades estranged from us and has on numerous occasions made unfounded and false accusations against Bo and other family members including pursuing legal actions that have been repeatedly rejected.

"Bo Schembechler was father and husband. A devoted Christian. He was inspiring, demanding, loyal, a fierce defender of his extensive family and a taskmaster who pushed everyone around him to be better, to be the best version of themselves possible. He pushed himself harder than anyone. He believed in integrity, honesty and kindness; he despised dishonesty and cruelty. His accomplishments — and the positive impact he had in the lives of so many people around him — are examples to study and to emulate. We are grateful to everyone who has stepped forward to defend his memory. We are proud to bear his name and to bear witness for a life well-lived."

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Bo Schembechler family: He 'was not aware' of sexual assaults

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