Tone-Deaf Michigan AD Still Extolling Bo Schembechler’s Tainted Legacy
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel's public appearances have been few and far between of late.
At a time when Michigan athletics has been mired in multiple scandals and controversies, the man at the helm of the department hasn't made himself available to the media very much at all, often opting to issue statements and press releases instead of answering questions from the press.
But somehow Manuel recently found the time to join the "From The Chair" podcast, a program that focuses on happenings within the college sports industry. In the latest episode, which was released on Wednesday, Manuel fondly remembered some of the lessons he learned as a football player at Michigan under Bo Schembechler:
Integrity. His belief in doing things the right way and pushing you to make sure there are no shortcuts. There's no cheating. It's just you having to do the work and then competing against others and seeing if you can have success. That was important to him. That was paramount to what he taught us and how he led us was about that and about character, and that you are a representative of who you are. Always carry yourself with high character and always work hard and do things the right way. I will always have those lessons with me.
Manuel's remarkably tone-deaf comments about Schembechler come just a few months after the University of Michigan settled with the 1,000-plus victims sexually assaulted by the school’s former employee Dr. Robert Anderson during his 30-plus-year tenure.
Anderson spent many years as the Michigan football team doctor, and multiple former players are among his victims. Several of those former players allege Schembechler disregarded and/or ignored them when they told him Anderson had sexually assaulted them. One of Schembechler's own sons, Matt, alleges Anderson sexually assaulted him when he was 10 years old and that Schembechler ignored Matt's claims.
In January, Michigan agreed to pay Anderson's victims a total sum of $490 million after more than a year of litigation. Manuel was largely absent from the public eye and media then, a time when Michigan athletics was under much scrutiny.
But maybe we shouldn't be surprised by Manuel's tone deafness. After all, this is an athletic director who has been virtually inaccessible during a time of multiple major issues within his own athletic department. Those matters have included:
- The school's basketball coach punching another coach in the head during a nationally televised game.
- The school's hockey program being the subject of a Title IX investigation over allegations that the head coach and an assistant fostered a toxic workplace for female staffers, and that the head coach retaliated against a player who raised concerns. There were also allegations that the head coach directed players to violate COVID-19 protocols (the head coach's contract expired last month, and Manuel has not commented on whether the coach remains employed by Michigan).
- The school's football coach, after guiding the program to its best season in 25 years, having a very public, drawn-out dalliance with the NFL for much of the offseason, including a critical time period for recruiting.
On the podcast, Manuel likened Schembechler and his leadership style to his own father. Perhaps sensing the tone-deaf gaffe he was in the process of making, he hedged his adulation for Schembechler a bit:
We are all fallible. We all make mistakes in life. Nobody's perfect, and neither were either Bo or my dad. But it's that effort to try to do it and recognizing when you fall short that you have to get up and work on doing things the right way again. That's always lived with me my entire life.
A man so baldly and shamelessly talking about integrity and "doing things the right way" while having dodged accountability in several controversies and outright scandals may seem unbelievable, until you remember that Manuel idolizes Schembechler. Bo, whom sycophants like Manuel have said couldn't possibly have known about the myriad unthinkable crimes Anderson was visiting upon people, wrote several books about leadership and wasn't shy about sharing his philosophies, like he did in this poignant and painful excerpt from "Bo's Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership":
Every coach, every executive, every leader: They all know right from wrong. Even those Enron guys. When someone uncovers a scandal in their company, I don't think they can say, 'I didn't know that was going on.' They're just saying they're too dumb to do their job! And if they really are too dumb, then why are they getting paid millions of dollars to do it? They know what's going on.