The Michigan Athletic Department announced Thursday that in punishing itself for its former players receiving money from former booster Ed Martin, it would expunge the existence of four of its players from its history. That effort began when four championship banners were taken down, and it will continue when the Wolverines reprint this season’s media guide without the statistics from the violated seasons.
But whether erasing statistics or vanquishing their legacy will change history is something many of the accused players doubt.
Chris Webber, a leading figure in the investigation who allegedly received $280,000 in cash and gifts while attending Detroit Country Day School and Michigan, believes that he will remain a part of Michigan basketball history.
“You can’t erase my personal stats out of the NCAA record books, because what I did in the Final Four, first rookie, first freshman, all that, you can’t take that away,” said Webber, now an all-star with the Sacramento Kings. “I knew for a long time that they wanted to do (this). It hurts, that’s all.”
Jalen Rose, a member of Webber’s Fab Five team who now plays for the Chicago Bulls, said he was also disappointed with the self-imposed sanctions implemented Thursday.
“The reality of it is you can try to erase it from the history books or pull it from the rafters, but you can’t erase the most famous college team in the minds of people,” he said.
Rose said he and former teammates hope to issue a formal statement denouncing the self-imposed sanctions.
The other players who are said to have received a portion of the $616,000 that was given to Michigan players by Martin are Maurice Taylor (1995-1997), Robert Traylor (1996-1998) and Louis Bullock (1996-1999).
Taylor, who now plays for the Houston Rockets, extended his criticism of the sanctions beyond Michigan to the NCAA and college basketball.
“The NCAA uses kids all the time,” he said. “The NCAA gets paid off of every major guy that is in college. It’s definitely hypocritical. How can you be making money off somebody else and not giving anything to them?”
“If you look at anybody that can play nowadays, coming out of the top 20 to 25 (recruiting wise), they look at college as a pit stop.”
Former coach Steve Fisher, who was fired in the fall of 1997 amid speculation that his players were receiving money from boosters, denied knowing anything about the payments. Fisher, who won Michigan’s first National Championship in 1989, issued a public statement following the University’s punishments.
“I want to emphatically state once again that I had no knowledge of or any involvement in the exchange of money between any of our players and Ed Martin,” said Fisher, now the coach of San Diego State University. “I am saddened, disappointed and angered by the events that have hurt so many people.”
Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said there was no mention of Fisher knowing anything about the payments in the NCAA’s letter of inquiry. He also said he would welcome an apology from the aforementioned players and would like to see them take responsibility for their actions.
In the response to the NCAA’s letter of inquiry, the University states that Fisher and/or his assistants “either knew or should have known that (Ed) Martin was providing a benefit” when Martin used his credit card to purchase hotel rooms for the Webber family for the 1992 NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis. Martin’s name had been placed on an official list which allowed him to reserve hotel rooms through the basketball office and was described as a “friend of the program.”
In addition to taking down banners, Michigan will attempt to inoculate itself against further NCAA sanctions by returning $450,000 paid to it by the NCAA for its postseason appearances, forfeiting games while the ineligible players were on the team, imposing a two year period of probation, and banning itself from participating in any of this year’s postseason tournaments.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.