The Maize Rage didn’t have much to cheer about last season – but they didn’t care. They earned praise from players, coaches and the media for their unflappable support of the Michigan basketball team from players, coaches and the media. Despite a one-win improvement, with a new coach and a top-notch recruiting class, at least there was hope to fuel their excitement.
But the NCAA could soon jeopardize that. With the indictment of booster Ed Martin for paying past players, Maize Ragers are concerned about possible sanctions from the NCAA and a further setback for their basketball team. A setback for the team could also shrink the Maize Rage with a decrease in student season ticket holders.
“It’s terribly frustrating,” Maize Rager Brian Groesser said.
Although unlikely, the NCAA could possibly place Michigan on probation or ban the team from postseason play.
Current “Superfan” Reza Breakstone hopes this won’t happen, and doesn’t think these sanctions would serve a purpose.
“We are two University presidents, two athletic directors and two coaches removed from it,” Breakstone said. “Punishment would have no purpose. It wouldn’t deter anyone that was involved.”
Breakstone said today’s coaches and players “didn’t have anything to do with it. Who are paying the consequences? (Chris) Webber, (Robert) Traylor, (Maurice) Taylor or (Louis) Bullock? No. It would be (Tommy) Amaker. It would be (LaVell) Blanchard.”
Michigan could also forfeit the games won with players that were paid by Martin.
“There are rumors of taking away Final Four appearances and taking away those seasons (that Webber, Traylor, Taylor and Bullock) played in, and I would agree to that,” Groesser said.
Fellow Maize Rager Aaron Ruhlig hopes that the NCAA will consider the steps Michigan took to clean its own basketball program while deciding whether or not to sanction the University.
The Martin scandal has also resulted in mixed emotions for some Maize Ragers about the “Fab Five” that many grew to love as children. Maize Ragers fondly remember the baggy shorts, attitude and, most importantly, success that these players brought to Michigan. But now that image has been “tarnished” for some because Chris Webber was paid to play, according to the indictment.
The “Fab Five” “is not something I want to erase from my memory bank,” Breakstone said. “(But) it diminishes their luster. It is not as magical when you cheat.”
Not all Ragers agree. Maize Rager Zach Drennen does not put blame on Webber, who was just a high school freshman when he supposedly started receiving payments from Martin.
“I think we should remember (Webber) for the player he was and not let this tarnish his image, because I think it has more to do with Ed Martin then the players,” Drennen said.
The Maize Ragers condemn all of these alleged payments. But, at the same time, they are frustrated that many other scandals in college basketball go unpunished.
Said Breakstone: “I feel like we are the only suckers that got caught.”
Breakstone also had some strong words for Martin.
“If you had this much love and passion, why don’t you go coach some kids and groom them to come to Michigan,” Breakstone said. “Do something positive.”
“Do you really think you were helping the program? You aren’t really a Michigan man.”
And he certainly doesn’t have any sympathy for Martin while he awaits trial.
“You spoiled your own dream. You deserve whatever you get.”