For years everyone has been waiting for the Ed Martin issue to finally be resolved, for the names and dollar amounts to finally be revealed and for Michigan to own up and accept its punishment.
The Martin saga began more than six years ago, and three separate investigations during that time could only turn up minor violations.
But this week we aren’t talking about birthday cakes, rides for grandmas, big screen television sets or even cars. Now the scandal has been expanded to hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid in cash to “amateur” athletes at Michigan.
The stakes have risen, and that should scare the University and anyone who cares about Michigan basketball.
If the administration is smart, it will be holding emergency meetings this week so that it can act quickly and decisively on this issue.
Michigan cannot hide behind its previous investigations or its banishment of Martin from Crisler.
Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock still found ways to get their hands on Martin’s money after the department publicly disassociated itself from him.
Michigan cannot hide behind the NCAA’s statute of limitations either.
If that statute were to protect Michigan, then the NCAA would be telling every school in the country that the best way to avoid sanctions is to not cooperate with investigations and just wait out the storm.
That was the Michigan way – shut everybody up and hope people forget.
That silent treatment almost worked, but the circus ended when the federal government stepped in with its subpoena power and forced people to admit what they saw and did.
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker doesn’t deserve to be punished, and neither does athletic director Bill Martin or interim President B. Joseph White. They weren’t around when all this transpired.
That is why Michigan needs to be proactive in putting the punishment on the old regime.
Games ought to be forfeited. Banners ought to be brought down.
Michigan has a long and storied tradition that has been built on success and fair play. What happened with Ed Martin and the basketball program was shameful and it wasn’t “Michigan.”
No action will really punish the people who were truly responsible. But by visibly distancing itself from the scandalous years, the athletic department will show every coach and every player that ever sets foot in Ann Arbor just how important integrity is at this University. Thirty years from now, people should see the same program that excelled for years without Ed Martin.
Michigan has the leadership to do that, but it also needs to have a system in place so that the traditions of honesty and fair play are never compromised again.
Temporary sanctions like losing scholarships, postseason appearances or television time would only serve to kick this program while it’s down and punish innocent players and coaches. Crossing out the program’s embarrassing past would forever eliminate the association of Michigan with extra benefits.
With each day that goes by without action from Michigan, it looks more and more like the administration isn’t taking these accusations seriously.
Despite all its best efforts, Michigan was never in complete control of this situation. Money continued to be exchanged after the University put safeguards in place. Athletes lived the high life, and investigation after investigation turned up nothing.
Michigan’s leaders had to know that this day was going to come. They may not have known the names and numbers, but they knew this scandal wouldn’t just go away.
Michigan has always been an exemplary athletic institution. The University must return to the values that made the Maize and Blue the envy of the nation. That process starts by admitting wrongdoing, and it ends with Bill Martin, White and Amaker taking a stand against their program’s shameful past.
Steve Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.