BY JOE SMITH
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 14, 2001
Now that the deed has been done and Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin confirmed the firing of Michigan basketball coach Brian Ellerbe, there have been differing opinions about the racial implications of the decision.
This includes clarification on a statement made by Richard Stacy, a member chair of the Michigan"s African-American Alumni Association, who the Detroit Free Press reported sent an e-mail last Friday to University President Lee Bollinger, regents and administrators.
It stated in the subject line "Black Alumni (upwards to 10,000) supports Ellerbe STAYING."
The letter continued to state that he and the members of the association would be greatly angered by Ellerbe"s firing.
But Charles Beckham, the chairman of the African-American Alumni council told The Michigan Daily yesterday that his organization has "no particular position" on the issue of Ellerbe"s dismissal. Beckham explained that Stacy was "speaking for himself and not the council," and that the actual views of the council "vary so much that it would be difficult to hold a definite position publicly."
Beckham said the reason Stacy sent the letter was because he was told that he had to have the council"s position in by 5 p.m. on Friday. Since Beckham was unable to get in contact with Stacy to discuss the board"s position, Stacy "felt the pressure to make a statement" and made it as an individual.
"We took a pretty hard position last year (in former Athletic Director Tom Goss" situation) and we"re not prepared to take that type of position now," said Beckham, who said the wavering opinions by his association differentiates itself from the stance of Rev. Wendell Anthony and the Detroit chapter of the NAACP.
Anthony could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, several members of Michigan"s Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics still voice strong concerns and disapproval over how Martin and the athletic department handled the problems facing Ellerbe and the basketball program.
"I"m embarrassed by the process undertaken by the athletic department in this matter," said James Stapleton, a member of the Board who is also the chairman for the Detroit Urban League. "It would be one thing if we could, as the University, all look ourselves in the mirror and say we"ve done everything we could to help this man and his program. Instead, we"ve done next to nothing. And it should shame us all especially Bill Martin."
This statement came two days after Robert Sellers, a black member of the Board, told the Daily he felt that firing Ellerbe would be "unfair and malicious."
"I have a deep and undying concern of the integrity of the department in the last year," said Stapleton, who feels that race has to at least be considered as a factor in the decision to fire Ellerbe. "And I intend to figure out what is going on here."
On the other hand, Martin is supported by Michigan women"s track coach James Henry, who is now the lone African-American coach in the 25 varsity sports offered by the University.
Henry said that in his 26 years affiliated with Michigan, including 17 as coach spanning over six athletic directors the athletic department has never been in better hands.
Henry said that Martin"s frankness in every issue, his willingness to take action and "roll-up-your sleeve" working style has impressed him and made him feel comfortable in his position, creating much confidence that Martin will do whatever is needed to absolve each and every concern.
"He"s the only (athletic director) that has said "Hey, your roof is leaking and we"re going to do something about it,"" said Henry.
Henry said that Martin has been to his office more times in his first year than half of the previous athletic directors that he"s dealt with combined showing a personable and down-to-earth nature in an athletic director that he"s impressed with.
Henry said he is the only coach on a committee consisting of four African-Americans, which Martin started in order to create more internship opportunities and improve the status of minorities in the department.
"For the first time in 26 years, I"m sure that something is going to happen," Henry said. "I feel very confident based on (the status of our) department."