After forfeiting 113 victories because of the Ed Martin scandal, Michigan is considering wiping the record clean from those five seasons.
If Michigan follows this approach a myriad of reactionary and childish actions could take place.
The athletic department would have to acknowledge that Webber was the first overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft after scoring zero points, grabbing zero rebounds and leading his team to a 0-36 season, which apparently never included an infamous timeout call.
It could say that Louis Bullock never played in a game and that Robert Traylor never grabbed a rebound. It could proclaim to the world that the baggy-shorts-with-black-socks motif was never cool.
It could convince Mitch Albom to have his book “Fab Five” moved to the historical fiction section of the library, and they could reprint all of their recruiting publications… err media guides to reflect all of those changes.
It could say that the whole history of Michigan basketball in the 1990s was just some sort of virtual-reality Matrix world that we all dreamed together.
But would any of those things make a difference to the average fan? No chance. Until Morpheus gives me the red pill and I wake up naked and surrounded by millions of other human batteries, I will remember what I saw and read as the true history of Michigan basketball.
“You can’t erase my personal stats out of the NCAA record books, because what I did in the Final Four … you can’t take that away,” Chris Webber told The Associated Press.
Sorry Chris, but those Final Four wins of yours have already been taken away, and all your stats may follow suit shortly.
This “book-burning approach” is a reactionary and childish way to deal with a difficult situation, and it would needlessly punish innocent players like Jimmy King and Robbie Reid by vaporizing the college statistics that they earned.
Anytime you forfeit this many games you are going to create problems. No matter what Michigan does to its other statistics, there will be plenty of nonsense in its future publications because of the changes in the win column.
Michigan may claim to be 0-35 in 1996-97, but it still managed to forfeit its way into the final round of the NIT. And what about Michigan’s games against Minnesota from 1993 to 1999?
The Gophers already forfeited their matches with the Wolverines because of the academic fraud scandal at Minnesota.
Do both teams lose?
Did the games ever happen?
“I don’t know,” Michigan’s NCAA faculty representative Percy Bates said. “For right now, we are just saying that we lost those games.”
No matter what Michigan’s final answers to those questions will be, the mess will continue. Bates, who served on the Big Ten’s compliance committee, said the conference’s compliance staff will have to evaluate standings, championships and individual statistics from Big Ten games that involved Michigan.
Even if Michigan decided to say those games were 1-0 forfeits, there is no guarantee that that the Big Ten, the NCAA or any media outlets will recognize those events the same way.
“We no longer won those games,” Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said. “By default, the other teams won those games.”
If only it were that simple.
In truth, officials in the athletic department are still unsure as to exactly how they will handle the details of erasing history.
“We are studying what other schools have done and will put forth a proposal to Bill Martin as soon as we can,” said Bruce Madej, Michigan’s Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations.
There is no easy answer to this problem, and that is why Martin didn’t have a proposal on his desk when he left the office for the weekend.
But the best way to attack this issue is what I call the “asterisk approach.” The athletic department can leave all the statistics for each individual game alone, but by placing an asterisk next to the final score it can show that those games were lost because the University forfeited them. That is consistent with what actually took place in this case.
As for the guilty players – Webber, Traylor, Bullock and Maurice Taylor – leave the statistics in each individual game of theirs alone because it wouldn’t make sense to erase 15 percent of a game. Instead, disqualify them from any individual team records, disqualify their teams from any team records and get their ineligible faces off everything in Crisler Arena.
From a practical standpoint, Michigan can’t change the facts of its history, so its best option is to acknowledge the truth – with a whole bunch of asterisks.
Steve Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.