Jimmy King is confident that Chris Webber, the embattled former Wolverine, will soon be ready to apologize for his role in the Ed Martin scandal, and that when he will, the 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners will again be able to hang from the Crisler Center rafters. Jalen Rose, though, is skeptical the conversation between Webber and the administration will ever take place.
Speaking at Monday night’s Mock Rock event, which Rose emceed, King’s outlook on the ordeal painted a brighter picture than what most, including Rose, foresee. Since the sanctions were handed down in the fall of 2002, the university hasn’t been able to acknowledge the Fab Five, Webber or publicly display the banners. That self-imposed ban ends this May.
“I know Chris even wants it,” King said. “I think that now that it’s January 2013 … we, internally, amongst ourselves, will start trying to reach out ourselves. I wouldn’t be surprised in the next couple of weeks or months to come, that, you know, Chris opens up and starts to publicly acknowledge the ban being over.”
But Rose’s response to King’s statements sounded more realistic, even though some believe there’s been somewhat of a rift going on between Rose and Webber. Rose admitted that Webber had initially agreed to be a part of “Fab Five,” the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary that Rose produced in 2011, but later backed out.
“I hope that (athletic director) Dave (Brandon) finds a way to figure it out and massage it to the point where both sides end up being pleased,” Rose said. “The tough part for me is, I love Chris. He’s my brother and my teammate and we’re not the Fab Five without him. I love Dave. He has a job to do. He’s an athletic director of the school. I get his side also. I’m not oblivious to what he has to deal with professionally, politically or whatever.
“The tricky part of it is, do you not acknowledge what we brought to the table because you feel like Chris in particular isn’t, I guess, apologizing or coming back. That’s something that we can’t control. … I just hope that if he decides not to apologize or not to come back, that that doesn’t create a negative domino and effect all of us.”
It remains to be seen whether the athletic department even has the power to put the banners back up, since the wins were officially vacated. Brandon has made comments suggesting that they can’t be, but Rose pointed out that actions other schools have taken that suggests otherwise.
Rose cited UMass’s 1996 Final Four banner still hanging in its arena, the Mullins Center, despite the postseason being vacated because at least one of its players, like Webber, accepted improper benefits.
The one thing everyone can agree on is that Webber needs to come forth with an apology. Brandon explicitly outlined this point in “Fab Five.”
“There are a lot of things that we admitted where we had made mistakes, could’ve done things better and we apologized,” he said. “What we’re looking for is the same thing from Chris. Chris simply needs to acknowledge that he made a mistake. … I believe it would have an enormous impact on our ability to heal this situation and move forward in a very positive way.”
Rose simply hopes that he’ll “be around to see it,” but fears that the sides may one day be forced to come together due to a tragic event like a funeral.
Added King: “I think (Webber’s) always wanted to (apologize). I think over the course of him being vilified, people pointing the finger at him, that where he’s probably withdrawn a little bit. But now that the ban is up this year, in the next couple of months, I think now he’s back to, ‘Okay, I’m willing to come back and have an open discussion.’ ”
With the success that the current Wolverine squad is having, the Fab Five and its related sanctions have become a prominent storyline again. Should this Michigan team make a Final Four run, its season would end just weeks before the disassociation period ends. By then, the picture may be a lot clearer.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take, I just hope that Mary Sue Coleman and Dave Brandon are open for the conversation,” King said. “I don’t know where we start. Just know that that line is there and that Chris and Jalen and Ray and Juwan and myself … are willing to discuss the possibility of putting the banners back up. … Maybe our views are different in that, but that’s why we need to have an open discussion.
“We’re part of the basketball history and we want to remain a part of that history.”