Chris Webber denies everything.
The former Michigan star basketball player was recently accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from former Michigan booster Ed Martin. Since then, it seems like everyone – from students, alumni and sports writers to the local paperboy himself – have been calling for Webber’s head, saying that the University must distance itself as far as possible from its horrible, tawdry past in order to prevent further abuses by the program and to prevent big NCAA sanctions.
A sports columnist for the Ann Arbor News went as far as to say that Webber should be banned from the University altogether, the banners won by Webber and the Fab Five torn down, whole seasons forfeited.
And then, lo and behold, Webber had to come along and deny everything. He says it didn’t happen. He never took a dime.
Well, I’m gonna be brutally honest. I’m angry. Really angry. No, no, I’m more than angry. I’m seriously pissed off about this whole situation.
But maybe not for the reason you would think.
You see, I wish Webber had taken the money – not because I think he’s a bad person or want his name “tarnished,” but for the exact opposite reason. I think he deserved it. In fact, if he really didn’t get any of the alleged $280,000, I think the University should send him a big, fat check in the mail making up for every last dollar. Heck, in that case, the University would still be getting a pretty good deal, considering inflation and everything.
Think about it. How much money did Webber and the Fab Five earn for the University while they were here playing basketball? How much money do all Michigan athletes – particularly in basketball and football – bring in for the University every single year?
Sure, you got your most basic sources of revenue. The most obvious is tickets to the games. Then you got the money from all the TV deals, shoe contracts for the coaches, apparel and equipment deals with Nike.
Then, of course, you’ve got merchandising. Did you know that Michigan is basically a brand name overseas? Half the time, they don’t even know what they’re wearing represents a school. They think the block “M” is just another trademark (which, technically, it is), like the Nike Swoosh.
Oh, and I’m not done yet. We’ve still just covered the most obvious stuff. You also have to consider donations and endowments from alumni – and don’t think that’s not related to sports. Win a national title, make a big splash at the NCAAs -that all amounts to big money for the University in terms of donations from alumni gushing with school spirit.
Even tuition money has a lot to do with athletics. I’m serious. How many people do you know who came to Michigan because they love the sports here? Sure, there’s the academics and all that, but man, I grew up watching the Wolverines on TV – there’s no way I could go anywhere but Michigan.
All that stuff – all of that – would not be possible without the athletes here at Michigan. And what do we give them in return? An education. And a small living stipend. Now, I know what we’ve all been taught to believe: An education is priceless. But let’s be honest here. In-state tuition amounts to a few thousand dollars a year. Out-of-state tuition is another story, but I don’t see Lloyd Carr or Tommy Amaker agreeing to coach at Michigan for a small living stipend, along with a guarantee that they can enroll in any classes they might be interested in taking.
I’m sure by now I’ve managed to offend a lot of people out there. The purists. The purists argue that players should go out every game and give 110 percent because they love the game. Let’s be serious here for just a moment. If the game was so pure, each fan wouldn’t have to pay over $50 a pop for a decent ticket. Coaches wouldn’t be making more money than most teachers at the University put together.
If you want purity, then let’s go for it. But let’s go all the way. I say we give up on money completely. Doctors? Let them perform surgery for the love of performing surgery. After all, that’s why they got into medicine, right? Because they like to heal people! They don’t need our money at all!
See, the only time this whole purity thing works is in the hands of a major, manipulative corporation like the NCAA. They spew a lot of garbage about the purity of the game and we all buy into it. And in the process, the NCAA and universities all over the country make a killing every single year in one of the best, most financially lopsided deals of all time.
And why? Because we foolishly believe that players should be happy with what they get. They should be happy they receive the honor to represent our fine academic institutions. They should be happy with much less than they truly deserve.
So, Chris Webber, if you’re out there, and you did take the money, I salute you. You got not only what you deserved but what we, as a University, owe you. And if you didn’t get the money – and most athletes in today’s system do not – then I hate to tell you this, but you got screwed.
Farah is a Near Eastern Studies Rackham student.