The University of Michigan’s response to the Robert Anderson sex abuse scandal and the legacy of former football head coach Bo Schembechler have been hot topics both locally and nationally this week. Normally we would have a weekly roundtable, but Von Lozon and I have decided to get behind the wheel this week and weigh in on what’s to come for UM.
This is a nuanced adult conversation, but we are issuing these statements assuming our Michigan readers and fans are up to date with the latest developments in the matter. If you’re not, we can update you here and here from the articles we wrote this week.
Without further ado, here’s Von and I on the record.
1. Send a better statement than 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 college 17 years ago and died 13 years ago,” does not go cut for me, not for anyone. It’s embarrassing to add this like it makes sense or has relevance. This is not the case. Do better.
2. As for Bo, remove the statue, his name from the football team building and all photos of him around the building / campus.
Memories and videos of him on the sidelines, wins over Ohio State, and more. will endure, but these are all tarnished now and a dark cloud hangs over her legacy, which now includes allegations of abuse from her son, Matt. His brother, Glenn, objected to this, but now it’s a wrinkle in history.
He may have been a great football coach, but he hasn’t done enough and this disgusting behavior has persisted in college for far too long. All it took was listening to a person along the way to prevent this from continuing to happen.
The university needs to handle this properly, and it all starts with removing Bo anything and everything from campus, permanently and forever.
You can disagree with anything I do or say. But please. Believe in the victims.
The University of Michigan must first and foremost accept its responsibility as an institution. The statement that was released Thursday was weak and only served to throw Dr Anderson alone under the bus, and rightly so. But the findings of the report they paid for showed multiple instances of people in positions of power within the institution failing to take action for decades. Unified Messaging needs to wear this, own it, apologize for what happened, and take legitimate action to ensure that something like this never happens again.
Should the Bo statue collapse and should the football building be renamed? It should and is the least they can do. Doing the right thing is sometimes difficult, but necessary. Michigan cannot deify what continues to be a source of pain to more people than we might imagine. The dilemma Michigan faces is that if anything Bo-related goes away, everything 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 happened decades earlier. Deleting or renaming monuments does not erase the moments or memories that people have of past field events and performances. But it sends the message that the institution is not going to immortalize someone who has let down some of the men it was responsible for 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 failure to protect his team members. The responsible thing for Michigan to do is own that and tell the whole story. Part of the reason Michigan might be a little quiet now is that once they make a decision, they have to do it right. This does not excuse the inaction on the part of the university in doing good for the victims and accepting its own responsibility. Going forward, they should focus on idolizing teams and moments from the past, not people. Humans are imperfect and inheritances change over time. No man is more important than the team. By extension, this includes the university. Michigan is taller than Bo and shouldn’t bend over backwards to ensure his legacy is protected given the report they’ve paid for the many cases where he failed to act or follow through on charges .