Everything Bo Schembechler’s son, 2 former Michigan football players said about doctor abuse case

Players discuss legendary football coach’s handling of Dr. Robert Anderson abuse situation

Matt Schembechler (left), Gilvanni Johnson (top right) and Daniel Kwiatkowski (bottom right) speak at a June 10, 2021, press conference about the abuse of former U of M Dr. Robert Anderson and Bo Schembechler's handling of the situation. (WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The son of legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler and two former players came forward Thursday to talk about the sexual abuse of former university doctor Robert Anderson and Schembechler’s handling of the situation.

You can watch the full press conference at the very bottom of this page.

Matt Schembechler, 62, is Bo Schembechler’s stepson. Bo Schembechler later adopted Matt Schembechler as his son.

Daniel Kwiatkowski is a former player who said he was sexually assaulted by Anderson during his first physical in 1977 and told Bo Schembechler what happened. He said he was told to “toughen up.”

Gilvanni Johnson said he also told his coach about sexual assault by Anderson in 1982, but no action was taken. He said he was sexually assaulted 15-20 more times by Anderson.

“We have to shed some light on this situation so the truth can come out,” attorney Mick Grewal said.

WARNING: The survivors’ stories below contain some disturbing, graphic descriptions of Anderson’s abuse.

Matt Schembechler’s story of abuse

Matt Schembechler said before this week, the only people he had ever shared his story with were his attorneys, his mother, his brother, former University of Michigan athletic director Don Canham and his father.

“It’s a deeply personal and painful story of abuse and betrayal,” he said. “Abuse by a trusted doctor and betrayal of my father and the University of Michigan, which he served.”

Matt Schembechler said his father sent him to Anderson for his first physical exam around 1969. He was in fourth grade and had to get a physical to start tackle football, he said.

Matt Schembechler, the son of legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, speaks at a June 10, 2021, press conference about the abuse of former U of M Dr. Robert Anderson. (WDIV)

“Dr. Anderson was the team doctor, so that’s where Bo sent me for my exam,” Matt Schembechler said. “As a 10-year-old kid, I didn’t really know what to expect, but what Dr. Anderson did made me uncomfortable. He fondled my genitals. He conducted an invasive rectal exam with his finger.”

He said he told his mother, Millie, as soon as he got home that he was uncomfortable. She was a registered nurse and knew something was wrong.

“She wanted me to tell my dad in her presence,” Matt Schembechler said. “When Bo got home, I told him what happened and it did not go well. Bo’s temper was legendary and 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 efforts earned me a punch in the chest. This was the beginning of the end of the relationship with him. I hoped my father would protect me, but he didn’t.”

He said his mother went over Bo Schembechler’s head and spoke to Canham at their house.

“I respected Don Canham and told him what happened to me at the hands of Dr. Anderson,” Matt Schembechler said. “Mr. Canham told my mother, ‘OK, I’ll handle this, Millie.’”

Matt Schembechler said it was his understanding that Canham terminated Anderson after that conversation, but shortly thereafter, his father had the doctor reinstated.

“He needed his team doctor and wanted to ensure Anderson remained part of the Michigan team,” Matt Schembechler said.

In 10th grade, he needed another football physical, so he took another trip to see Anderson, Matt Schembechler said.

“Anderson groped me once again before I stopped him, because it made me feel uncomfortable,” he said. “The final time I saw Anderson was as a college freshman for another physical exam as I was just about to start football at Western Michigan. This time, Anderson didn’t lay a hand on me. He just signed the paper, clearing me to play.”

He said he trained with many Michigan football players in the mid-1970s and heard stories and locker room jokes about Anderson’s abuse. He said the doctor’s abuse of students, players and patients was the “worst-kept secret at the university.”

“I understand the reverence people have for my father, including Jim Harbaugh, but I know the truth,” Matt Schembechler said. “Anderson abused me and countless others over three decades. It’s clear the culture of abuse at the University of Michigan has not changed and will not change until they acknowledge what happened.”

Matt Schembechler said Anderson was able to continue abusing victims for so long because he was support by a culture of placing the university’s reputation above the health and safety of students.

“That is the culture that made my father a legend and placed his statue in front of Schembechler Hall,” Matt Schembechler said. “It’s a culture that he believes, as he did, ‘No man is more important than the team.’”

He said it’s clear to him that his father and the university put themselves before any students to support the brand.

“I’m coming forward for my own healing and to help prevent people and institutions from exploiting the trust, power and authority given to them,” Matt Schembechler said.

Daniel Kwiatkowski’s story of abuse

Kwiatkowski attended the University of Michigan from 1977-1981. He said during his senior year of high school, Bo Schembechler recruited him and promised to protect him.

“Bo promised my family that he would keep me safe, make sure I got the best medical treatment,” Kwiatkowski said. “We were sold.

“But Bo didn’t keep me safe. He broke his promise to me and my family in the fall of 1977.”

During his freshman year, Kwiatkowski went to his first mandatory physical with Anderson.

“During that physical, Dr. Anderson molested and violated me,” Kwiatkowski said. “He inappropriately caressed my testicles while asking me detailed questions about my sex life. After I tried to answer his questions, he bent over and put his head near my penis and began blowing on it, telling me, it’s OK to get an erection. He then digitally raped my rectum multiple times. I couldn’t believe that Bo and the university would break its promise to protect and take care of me like family.”

Former Michigan football player Daniel Kwiatkowski speaks at a June 10, 2021, press conference about the abuse of former U of M Dr. Robert Anderson. (WDIV)

Kwiatkowski said he approached Bo Schembechler one day after practice and reported that Anderson had digitally raped his rectum.

“Bo looked at me and said, ‘Toughen up,’” Kwiatkowski said. “Bo knew, I knew, then I was on my own and Bo was never going to protect us from Dr. Anderson.”

After he reported Anderson’s abuse to Bo Schembechler, Kwiatkowski said he was forced to attend three more physicals with the doctor in 1978, 1979 and 1981.

“Dr. Anderson violated me again and again,” Kwiatkowski said. “I graduated and moved on from U of M, but the scars of what happened to me by Dr. Anderson and Bo never went away. I have avoided doctors ever since that time, jeopardizing my own health and have found it very hard to have intimate relationships with women.”

In 1999, he went to a University of Michigan reunion, and both Bo Schembechler and Anderson were there.

“It was supposed to be a celebration of U of M and its players and all that we accomplished,” Kwiatkowski said. “But when I saw Dr. Anderson, I immediately became sick, just like I had 20 years earlier as a teenager.”

Kwiatkowski said when it finally came time to say hello to Bo Schembechler at the reunion, he felt nervous. He said that’s when Bo Schembechler told him, “Don’t be afraid of me. I can’t hurt you anymore.”

Kwiatkowski said even all these years later, he struggles with the pain caused by Anderson and Bo Schembechler.

“It’s hard to share this story, but I hope that in doing so, I can bring some peace and justice to some of the other survivors,” Kwiatkowski said.

Gilvanni Johnson’s story of abuse

Johnson said Bo Schembechler knew “everything” that went on at the University of Michigan campus.

“My freshman year, I went and played basketball,” Johnson said. “Somehow it got back to him that he knew I was playing basketball.”

Former Michigan football player Gilvanni Johnson speaks at a June 10, 2021, press conference about the abuse of former U of M Dr. Robert Anderson. (WDIV)

Johnson said he played football for Michigan from 1982-1986 after being recruited for both football and basketball. He said the football coaches told his mother that they would take care of him and she would have nothing to worry about.

“Coach Bill McCartney was the coach assigned to recruit me, and when my mother saw the sign in his office that said, ‘God bless you,’ she said that Michigan was where I was going to school,” Johnson said.

Before his freshman preseason physical, Johnson said he would hear upperclassmen talk about seeing “Dr. Anal.” He said he didn’t really know what that meant until he was told to go to his exam.

“When I had my exam, Dr. Anderson commented on my genitals, played with my genitals, tried to arouse me and put his finger in my anus,” Johnson said. “The exam was very painful. I felt humiliated and confused. I’d never had a medical exam like that before.”

Johnson said he had to return to Anderson for either a cold or an injury.

“The same thing took place,” Johnson said. “I had a rectal exam and he played with my penis. After that occasion, I told Bo that Dr. Anderson played with my genitals and put his finger in my anus. Bo said that he would check on that with the medical staff. I never heard back from Bo, and he never discussed it with me again.”

Johnson said he was told by other players not to bring up the topic with Bo Schembechler because he could have his scholarship pulled. He was told by teammates not to rock the boat, he said.

His complaints about Anderson changed Johnson’s relationship with Bo Schembechler, he said.

“It became contentious instantly,” Johnson said. “I was in Bo’s doghouse for the fact that he told me during my recruiting that I would be allowed to play both sports -- football and basketball. He told me when I asked him, ‘Could I go play basketball?’ that I couldn’t play, as he had promised me when I was being recruited.”

Johnson said players and coaches used to talk about Anderson’s exams regularly.

“Coaches used to joke about him and actually threaten Dr. Anderson’s exam if they did not think we were working hard enough,” he said. “Only now do I realize how crazy it was to threaten rape as a way of motivating players to work harder.”

Johnson said he saw Anderson 15-20 times during his University of Michigan career for various reasons -- physicals, colds, injuries, etc.

“If Bo had stopped Dr. Anderson after the first exam my freshman year, the rest of the assaults would never have happened,” Johnson said. “If he had stopped Dr. Anderson before 1982, I would not have been victimized at all. Because of my experience at Michigan, I did not trust doctors and have delayed important medical care, had trust issues, relationship issues and intimacy issues and have always been too promiscuous in an effort to prove to myself and to others than I was a man.”

He said he lost two marriages because of what happened to him during Anderson’s exams.

“I am grateful for the chance to tell my story and hope that other people who may be in similar positions know that it’s OK to protect yourself from a perverted doctor and the coaches who covered up for him,” Johnson said. “The reason why I’ve come forward is that I used to deal with kids and I was a social worker and we dealt with kids who were molested.”

Johnson said he doesn’t want any more children or people to have to go through what he went through.

“For me -- don’t get me wrong, Bo’s a good coach,” Johnson said. “Legendary coach. But for me, in my remembrance of him, at this point, is you allowed kids, 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds, to continue to be assaulted when you could have done something about it. Being a great coach doesn’t give you a pathway to let other things happen to kids.”

Changing culture

“I don’t think it needs to be ever said again that Bo did not know,” Grewal said. “Bo knew. If Bo listened to his son, these two gentlemen wouldn’t be sitting up here today.”

Grewal said hundreds of victims could have been saved if Bo Schembechler would have listened to Kwiatkowski and Johnson.

Stephen Drew, an attorney for Matt Schembechler, said he was at the University of Michigan in 1967 before Bo Schembechler and Canham. He graduated from U of M’s law school in 1974.

“I celebrated the 24-12 victory that Bo had over Woody, and believe me, as a student, we celebrated,” Drew said. “But the times are always right to do what is right. ... The time was right in 1969, in the 1970s and the 1980s for Bo Schembechler, Don Canham and others in management at the University of Michigan to stop Dr. Anderson from sexually abusing students and other persons who came on their campus.”

Drew said it’s “more than a coincidence” that physicians and others in authorities have become predators in several athletic departments and universities. He said they’ve been allowed and enabled to sexually abuse students.

“Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, Southern California -- charges against UCLA, and now Michigan,” Drew said. “How many more do we need? We need to have and start having total accountability. We need to stop the argument that we are immune from responsibility. We need to now do what is right, as Martin Luther King said.”

He said the people on campus need to be more important than the power, privilege, profits, teams and brands at universities.

“We need to change,” Grewal said. “These gentlemen have bared their soul and told their stories now. What happened to them: betrayal, assault. As a culture, we need a change. These universities need to change. I’m also a University of Michigan grad, from 1986-1990. I was there when Jim (Harbaugh) was there, on the tail end. I couldn’t believe that this happened at the University of Michigan, right after we just finished the Michigan State case 60 miles away. Can we start to change now?”

Grewal said it’s clear to him that medals and Big Ten championships were worth more than players, students and sons.

“That’s our culture,” Grewal said. “Let’s change it.”

Jim Harbaugh

Matt Schembechler said Harbaugh’s earlier comments that this wasn’t the Bo Schembechler he knew didn’t play a role in his decision to come forward.

“I love the Harbaugh family,” Matt Schembechler said. “They are as fine a family as you could ever meet -- all of them -- Jim, John, Joani, Jack, and Mrs. Harbaugh. Jim has nothing to do with this. He’s coach at Michigan now, with a huge distance between he and Bo, and the way it was. Sure, it helped form him, but I beg you: Don’t draw Jim Harbaugh into this. He deserves no negative feedback from this -- none.

“Jim didn’t know. In fact, Jim as a kid -- I would have to say, in a respectful way, as a kid -- he was a bit naive. This kind of topic doesn’t register with him. So please, please don’t take shots at Jim. He doesn’t deserve it.”

He said he goes back to 1969.

“As a player, I highly doubt that Jim knew and I can’t read Jim’s mind, but he’s just the kind of guy that wouldn’t pay attention to this even after it started happening, after he got to the university,” Matt Schembechler said. “Remember, his dad -- he wasn’t a coach on the original staff starting in 1969, so he couldn’t have known.”

He reiterated when asked for a third time that he doesn’t believe Harbaugh knew about the Anderson situation “in general.”

Why Matt Schembechler came forward

Matt Schembechler said he came forward now because the opportunity was there. He said socially, the community is ready to handle it responsibly.

“I don’t think we were ready, even as a culture back in the 1970s, to handle this,” Matt Schembechler said.

He said what he wants out of coming forward is that nobody considers doing what Anderson did to students in the future.

Matt Schembechler was asked what he thought his father would say if he heard Thursday’s press conference.

“Honestly, I could care less what his opinion was,” Matt Schembechler said. “I don’t hate Bo. People try to paint me that. I just don’t like him.”

He said if he didn’t come forward, knowing what happened, then he would feel responsible.

“If I don’t do my part to help prevent it from happening, I’m responsible,” Matt Schembechler said. “If you know you can make a change and do good and you don’t, you’re responsible. That’s the way I view it. That’s the way I was brought up.”

He said there’s no question he disagreed with his father on “a number of things,” and he still does to this day. He said when he was a child, the players and coaches were like part of his family, and Anderson was someone he trusted.

How well known was abuse?

Kwiatkowski and Johnson were asked about how well-known the abuse was on campus and if it was possible that Harbaugh didn’t know.

Johnson reiterated that Bo Schembechler knew everything that went on, but Harbaugh’s experiences were his own.

“I can speak for us, what we went through,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what he went through. But pretty much everybody knew, because it was joked about around players. So there’s no way he could not have known.”

Later, Johnson was asked about Harbaugh again.

“I’m not saying that he did know, but I am saying that there’s no way that all this is going on and you’re not even privileged to the information,” Johnson said.

Matt Schembechler interjected at this point, asking, “Why are you guys trying to pull Jim Harbaugh into this? He wasn’t there in 1969. He doesn’t know about this stuff, and remember, his job now is geometrically more complex than Bo’s was, with all the commitments.”

Kwiatkowski also talked about how well-known the abuse was during his time at Michigan.

“If you would have walked through our locker room at that time, it was a constant joke,” Kwiatkowski said. “If you had come back from the doctor, you got teased because you got ‘Dr. Anders-ized.’”

Kwiatkowski said Bo Schembechler hated injuries and respected players for playing with pain. He said one time he was sick with a flu-type chest cold and considering going to see Anderson. He spoke with another player who was dealing with a similar sickness who went to see Anderson, and that player told him Anderson had sexually assaulted him during the appointment.

“I laid there for six weeks sick because I didn’t want to go get the abuse,” Kwiatkowski said. “Everybody knew, and you had to deal with it your own way as a 17-year-old kid, 18-year-old kid. You have to make these decisions now.”

He said he couldn’t just go home and tell his father because when he went to Michigan, Bo Schembechler became his father figure.

“You may asked yourselves, ‘Why did we let this go on?’” Kwiatkowski said. “Well there was a lot of props, too. I wanted to go to California and play in a Rose Bowl. I wanted to be part of a team with a bunch of great guys that liked each other. The players you hung with weren’t doing anything wrong to you. So there was a lot of things we had to juggle back then.”

University of Michigan’s response

Kwiatkowski said it wasn’t just Bo Schembechler who allowed Anderson’s abuse, but the whole university.

“For me, it’s they need to own up to what went down and from this point forward, make sure none of these kids ... are assaulted again,” Johnson said.

He said the University of Michigan needs to allow everyone involved in Anderson’s abuse to come forward.

“They do a blanket apology, but the apology to us, to the victims, is what I’m talking about,” Johnson said.

Dennis Mulvihill, an attorney for Johnson said almost all the apologies from the university have been on behalf of a dead doctor, not on behalf of itself.

“They apologize for what Dr. Anderson did,” Mulvihill said. “I have yet to see -- and maybe they did -- but I have yet to see the university take ownership of their own responsibility in allowing Dr. Anderson to do what he did. The university, I don’t believe, has come out and said, ‘We own this. We knew. We’re sorry. We’re going to do the right thing and make sure this never happens again.’”

Grewal said the university has been apologizing to victims for what happened to them, not for its own part in allowing it to happen.

“Where’s the apology for letting Bo keep (Anderson) on staff?” Grewal asked. “Where’s the apology when (former vice president of student life Tom) Easthope terminated (Anderson) and still kept him on. They’re not owning up.”

Why would Bo Schembechler protect Anderson?

Matt Schembechler and the former players were asked why Bo Schembechler would try so hard to protect the team doctor.

“There’s not a soul in this room that knows Bo longer or better than me on a personal level, and the only thing I can come up with -- knowing Bo and how he operated -- was he’s got the goods on Dr. Anderson,” Matt Schembechler said. “Dr. Anderson’s going to do what he tells him to do. He says a kid can’t play? ‘No, Dr. Anderson, that kid’s playing.’ That’s what I think. Control, and his personality that helped him have control. He knew he had control over Dr. Anderson. He’s on the gallows if this gets out. He knew that, and he was a very tough business guy. He knew how to play is cards.”

Matt Schembechler describes telling his brother

Matt Schembechler said when he told his older brother, Chip, about what happened during Anderson’s exams, his brother was angry, but more hurt and disappointed.

The two had a strong relationship, and Chip was protective of his younger brother, Matt Schembechler said. Chip died in 2003.

“He was the best big brother you could ever ask to have,” he said. “He toughened me up, but he loved me and was very defensive for me, protective.”

“He wanted to go -- I think he used the term, he was going to ‘throw down,’” Matt Schembechler said. “I won’t say on who, but I told him that’s not the way to handle this.”

Matt Schembechler said the conversation happened as the Anderson issue was causing issues with their family.

“I think that changed Chip,” Matt Schembechler said. “It soured him. It disappointed him. It made him sad. It made him angry.”

Here is the full press conference from June 10, 2021:

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.