By now, hopefully, you have read Athletic Director Bill Martin’s comments regarding the Ed Martin scandal. In his first discussion of the scandal with the media yesterday, AD Martin stressed that the indictment is just a list of allegations that still have to be proven.

Paul Wong
Jeff Phillips

Now before you get your knickers in a bunch over this sentiment, understand Martin’s position as AD.

Martin is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the issue of Ed Martin. There are two general opinions about the scandal.

One: This is the most embarrassing situation in the history of Michigan athletics and as such, the “Fab Five” era and the following years did much more harm than good for Michigan and its image.

Two: Despite the indictment, the “Fab Five” and the following mid-1990s period of Michigan basketball was the most exciting time for college basketball and the players’ accomplishments should not be ignored.

It should not come as a surprise that the majority of those with the first opinion are fans from an older generation, while the majority of fans with the second opinion grew up with or were fans of the “Fab Five.” Martin has the unenviable task of combining the two opposing views. He is forced to tread a thin line by not alienating fans on either side.

Martin and basketball coach Tommy Amaker have stressed the importance of bringing back former players to renew a sense of success with the basketball program. This has led Amaker to make images of the NCAA Championship team and the “Fab Five” more prominent in Crisler Arena and the lockerroom. The latest revelations have forced Martin to reconsider the place of those linked with Ed Martin.

AD Martin told Detroit Free Press writer and former Daily Sports Editor Michael Rosenberg that he would welcome back Webber and even former coach Steve Fisher, who is now coaching at San Diego State, to talk over a cup of coffee.

Martin would still like to have that coffee, but this time he certainly has more questions, and, as he told the media yesterday, he would like Michigan’s General Counsel to be present.

For better or for worse, the Michigan basketball program will always be tied to Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock. Their images are pasted on the walls of everything from dorm rooms to athletic facilities. They are the most recognizable players associated with Michigan basketball. Martin knows all of this very well and has responded accordingly.

He easily could have said that he wants to completely disassociate the University from Webber, Taylor, Traylor and Bullock in addition to Eddie L. But this action would have sufficed only for the people like former AD Don Canham and would have left many students and younger fans miffed.

If you are frustrated by Martin’s comments thus far, I would advise you to put your trust in him, just as the family of Michigan’s coaches have.

Since his ascension to the athletic director position two years ago, Martin has been open and available to the media without being intimidating or scared. He knew what he was getting into, and he has made calm, rational decisions on everything from hiring a new basketball coach to forming a new athletic budget.

Martin’s choices have always been made with the athletic department’s integrity in mind, and he wasn’t afraid of any task he has faced thus far.

Likewise, Amaker knew about the possibility of an indictment of or plea bargain by Ed Martin when he was hired, and he isn’t jumping ship. Righting this ship isn’t going to be easy, but the steps are in place to do so.

Now AD Martin has his toughest job of all – being the spokesperson for the Michigan athletic department, while waiting for NCAA sanctions on the basketball program. After his first contact with the media regarding the scandal, he is off to a good start – and members of both opposing views should be glad to have him in the position.

Jeff Phillips can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu.

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