The success on the football field in 2021 has largely kept what was one of the biggest stories in Ann Arbor on ice - until last night.
As the sun rose on Wednesday morning, folks entering Schembechler Hall were greeted with a message: "Bo Knew".
Over the summer, University of Michigan Regents released a report by the WilmerHale law firm. The report came on the heels of a year-long investigation into Robert Anderson, a former doctor at the University of Michigan. The investigation culminated in a 240-page report detailing disturbing abuse and misconduct by Dr. Anderson from 1966 to 2003.
Within that 240-page accounting was the name of a man known by virtually everyone within the college football community - former legendary head coach Bo Schembechler.
According to the report, multiple individuals, including members of his football team, claim to have approached Schembechler about Dr. Anderson's misconduct. One of those individuals is former University of Michigan student Richard Goldman, who claims to have told Schembechler about Anderson's abuse on three separate occasions. Goldman also claims he overheard an argument between Schembechler and Athletic Director Don Canham over complaints about Dr. Anderson's misconduct.
“Now I could hear Bo clearly and what he was saying," said Goldman. He was telling Canham, ‘What in the hell are you doing? Why hasn't this man been fired? This is the third time that this has happened. Why have you done nothing?’"
Schembechler's inclusion in the report immediately grabbed the attention of everyone who was following this story, so much so that the entire story became about Schembechler himself. It was about what he knew, when he knew, his statue, the building in his name - it was about his legacy. For weeks, the Michigan media, fans and alumni battled over Schembechler's role within this tragedy and how it should impact his legacy, all but completely ignoring the survivors and what they experienced during their time at the University of Michigan.
What little attention the survivors did receive from the Michigan community came mostly in the form of ridicule, including one prominent member - and current employee of the University of Michigan - openly disparaging the victims during a series of radio interviews. Additionally, more than 100 former members of Schembechler's football program, including Jack Harbaugh, added their signatures to an open letter defending the former head coach.
While the debate over Schembechler's legacy raged on, the most important part of the report was quickly brushed aside and forgotten.
The WilmerHale report is far more than just one name on one page. In its entirety, the report is a disturbing account of a massive institutional failure that occurred over the course of nearly four decades. It's an institutional failure that led to the repeated sexual assault of thousands of University of Michigan students and student athletes.
There's absolutely no doubt that what these students and student athletes endured is tragic, but perhaps equally as tragic is the fact that most of the abuse was preventable.
Though the WilmerHale report came far short of exposing the full-extent of Dr. Anderson's misconduct, there was more enough evidence to determine that what occurred at the University of Michigan from 1966-2003 is likely the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of college athletics.