The University of Michigan’s response to the Robert Anderson sex abuse scandal and former head football coach Bo Schembechler’s legacy have been hot topics both locally and nationally this week. Normally, we would have a weekly roundtable, but Von Lozon and I decided to take the wheel this week and weigh in on what comes next for U-M.
This is a nuanced, adult conversation to have, but we put these statements out assuming that our readers and Michigan fans are up to date with the latest developments in the case. If you are not, we can get you up to speed here and here from articles that we did this week.
Without further ado, here is Von and me on the record.
1. Send out a better statement than what the university did on Thursday. The line where they say, “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,” isn’t gonna cut it for me, nor should it for anyone. That’s embarrassing to throw that in there like it has any meaning or relevance. It doesn’t. Do better.
2. As it pertains to Bo, remove the statue, his name from the football team’s building and any/all photos of him around the building/campus.
The memories and videos of him on the sidelines, wins against Ohio State, etc. will live on, but those are all tarnished now and a dark cloud hangs over his legacy, which now includes the claims of violence from his son, Matt. His brother, Glenn, has pushed back against that, but it is now a wrinkle in the story.
He may have been a great football coach, but he did not do enough and this disgusting behavior persisted at the university for much too long. All it took was listening to one person along the way to prevent it from continuing to happen.
The university needs to handle this properly, and it all starts with eliminating everything and anything Bo from campus, permanently and forever.
You may disagree with everything I do or say. But please. Believe in the victims.
The University of Michigan needs to accept responsibility as an institution, first and foremost. The statement that was released on Thursday was weak and served only to throw Dr. Anderson alone under the bus, deservedly so. But the findings of the report that they paid for showed multiple instances of people in positions of power at the institution failing to take action for decades. U-M has to wear this, own it, apologize for what happened and take legitimate action to ensure something like this can never happen again.
Does the Bo statue need to come down and the football building be renamed? It should and is the literal least they can do. Doing the right thing is difficult sometimes, but necessary. Michigan cannot deify what continues to be a source of pain for more people than we could imagine. The dilemma that Michigan faces is that if something Bo-related goes, it all has to go. “The Team, The Team, The Team,” “Those Who Stay,” etc. Michigan Football’s current branding and identity is deeply rooted in the past and what came decades earlier. Removing or renaming monuments does not erase moments or memories that people have of on-field occurrences and performances of the past. But it sends a message that the institution is not going to immortalize someone who failed a portion of the men he was in charge of protecting.
Bo’s place in Michigan history has its share of highs mixed in with what is the dark cloud of the Robert Anderson scandal and his inability to protect members of his team. The responsible thing to do for Michigan is to own that and tell the whole story. Part of the reason why Michigan may be a bit quiet now is that once they make a decision, they have to get it right. That does not excuse inaction on the university’s part in doing right by the victims and accepting its own responsibility. Moving forward, they should focus on idolizing teams and moments from the past, not people. Humans are flawed and legacies change over time. No one man is more important than the team. By extension, that includes the university. Michigan is bigger than Bo and should not bend over backward to ensure his legacy is protected given the report they paid for stated numerous cases of him failing to act or follow up on accusations.