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Report on sexually abusive doctor could endanger legacy of Michigan Wolverines’ legendary coach Bo Schembechler

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler is carried on the shoulders of team members after the Wolverines defeated USC 22-14 to win the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 2, 1988. It was Schembechler’s second Rose Bowl win. (AP file photo)

ANN ARBOR — A report about the stunning lack of action at the University of Michigan while a rogue doctor was sexually assaulting hundreds of young men has cast an unflattering light at one of the school’s giants, the late football coach Bo Schembechler.

Schembechler, who led the team from 1969-89, was vividly told by at least four people that Robert Anderson had molested them during routine physicals or other exams, according to the report commissioned by the university. Yet, the report says, he took no direct steps and even told one man to “toughen up.”

While U-M digests the report by the WilmerHale law firm and deals with a flood of lawsuits by Anderson’s victims, it also might have to consider the future of the Schembechler bronze statue on campus and the football building that bears his name. Penn State University in 2012 removed a statue of the iconic coach Joe Paterno who was accused of burying child sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach.

The report about Anderson, released Tuesday, details many missed opportunities to stop the doctor, a L’Anse native who spent 37 years on campus and died in 2008. But Schembechler’s name is the most recognizable.

“At this early stage, all I can really say with confidence is that it’s a tragedy, it can’t happen again, and we have more questions than answers until we learn more,” said author John U. Bacon, who wrote “Bo’s Lasting Lessons” with Schembechler.

Schembechler, who died in 2006, is a revered figure in Ann Arbor, though it’s been 32 years since he last coached a team. The Wolverines won or shared 13 Big Ten football championships while regularly playing in front of 100,000 fans at Michigan Stadium.

Mike Stone, a Philadelphia native who is popular on Detroit sports radio, said the Schembechler era turned him into a U-M fan. But he said his name and statue should come down as a consequence of the “massive cover-up” of complaints about Anderson.

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