After 15 years away from the program, Chris Webber returned to Michigan on Saturday.
Best known as a member of the men’s basketball team’s “Fab Five” in the mid-1990s, Webber was banned from affiliation with the Wolverines until 2013 after he received more than $200,000 from a booster and then committed perjury during an investigation. Even after the ban expired, relations were strained between Webber and Michigan. He had not appeared publicly in Ann Arbor since the scandal.
But on Saturday, before the Michigan football team’s game against Penn State, Webber took the field as an honorary captain, donning a football jersey with the number four — the number he wore with the Wolverines and in the NBA — for the coin toss. The crowd cheered as his name was announced at Michigan Stadium.
Webber met with the football team on Friday and offered words of encouragement.
“He had a tremendous message to the team, and it was neat watching all our guys wanting to get pictures with him afterwards,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “So that was really cool.”
Added fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich: “He basically forwarded a message how big of support he had for our program and how he’s been watching us. He just, he was rooting us on for victory. It was a good message. … We’re fans of him, from the football team’s perspective.”
Ironically, the basketball team didn’t get the same treatment. On Friday night, the same day Webber met with the football team, the basketball team played an exhibition against Northwood, and Webber didn’t make an appearance. Sophomore guard Eli Brooks said on Thursday that the team was not planning on meeting with Webber that he knew of.
“It’s great that (Webber) is coming back,” said junior center Jon Teske. “It’d be pretty cool for him to … come talk to us. Just kinda meet him, that would be awesome.”
Teske noted that Webber was the only Fab Five member he had never met.
Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein still hoped his team could meet with Webber, though.
“There has been some discussion of (a Fab Five reunion), yeah,” Beilein said on Thursday. “I don’t know how much Chris wants me to say. But we hope we can get together this weekend.”
It is unknown if Webber has since met with the men’s basketball team, or if he has any plans to.
“Since I came here 12 years ago, all that — getting everybody back, former Michigan players really being connected to the university again, whether they were or not,” Beilein said. “The whole idea is, we’re one great big family and let’s get everyone connected again.”