Fighting back tears, Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin told reporters he had just ordered the removal of four championship banners from Crisler Arena.
“It was like a dagger in my heart,” Martin said.
While this may have been the most symbolic and emotional action that Martin and University President Mary Sue Coleman took against the basketball program yesterday, it was just one small part of a shamefully sad yet relieving day for the University.
In a morning press conference, Coleman announced that Michigan had agreed to sanction itself for $616,000 of improper loans given by former booster Ed Martin to four former basketball players – Chris Webber, Robert Traylor, Maurice Taylor and Louis Bullock.
In addition to dropping the championship banners and removing all other references to the relevant players and teams, Michigan chose to forfeit games won while those four players were on the team, including two trips to the Final Four in 1992 and 1993. The Athletic Department will also use $450,000 from its discretionary fund to pay back the money received for postseason play during that time.
The current program will face a two-year period of probation and will be banned from this year’s postseason play – the 2003 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament and the 2003 National Invitational Tournament. Michigan will still take part in the Big Ten Tournament because it is a regularly scheduled part of the conference slate.
“There is no excuse for what happened,” Coleman said. “It was wrong, plain and simple. We have let down all who believe that the University of Michigan should stand for the best in college athletics. We have disappointed our students, our faculty, our alumni and our fans.”
Martin sympathized with the players, who will no longer have the option of playing in the postseason this year.
“Even though this is the right thing to do, I want to personally apologize to our three basketball players who are graduating seniors,” Martin said. “These students had nothing to do with what happened, and I am sorry that they have to pay the price.”
Michigan submitted a report to the NCAA yesterday with the self-imposed sanctions, the detailed findings of its joint investigation with the NCAA, and an outline of all corrective actions the University has already taken, including: Banning Martin from the program, making major coaching changes, limiting access to the tunnel area of Crisler and hiring new staff to oversee compliance.
This came in direct response to an official NCAA letter of inquiry, dated Oct. 25, 2002, which requested information about the extra benefits that Martin, a retired autoworker from Detroit, gave to Michigan players.
Once the NCAA has finished reviewing Michigan’s submission, the next step will be for University officials to meet with the NCAA Infractions Committee. At that point, the NCAA will present its final decision in this case, which could include new sanctions such as the loss of recruiting visits, television time or basketball scholarships. Sanctions that were self-imposed could also be strengthened at that time.
“We don’t know what the NCAA will do,” Coleman said. “We certainly hope they will (accept these sanctions) because we believe that these are consistent with their practice in the past as well as consistent with what went wrong here at Michigan.”
The NCAA letter of inquiry said that the Committee on Infractions anticipates hearing Michigan’s case during its Feb. 14 meeting, but there is also a “remote possibility” that it could be discussed at the Dec. 13 meeting.
After six years and three investigations, the University was finally able to uncover the facts of the case this summer during an interview with Ed Martin’s lawyers, which took place July 26. The meeting was made possible through cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Justice Department, which were investigating Martin on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and running an illegal gambling ring.
“Because of the government’s subpoena powers, we finally uncovered all the facts,” Martin said. “And once we had the facts we acted as soon as possible.”
The entire athletic department will meet today to discuss these issues and answer specific questions from coaches and student-athletes.
“I’m very relieved to finally be putting this behind us,” Martin said. “This is not the last page of this story, but it is the first page of the final chapter.”
Just a memory
Yesterday morning, Michigan announced a list of self-imposed sanctions as a result of the Ed Martin scandal. Here is a look at those sanctions.
– Forfeiture of games won in which Chris Webber, Louis Bullock, Maurice Taylor or Robert Traylor played.
– Repaying the NCAA approximately $450,000 received from postseason play with the four players on the team.
– One year postseason ban.
– Placing the program on probation for two years.