Source: USA TODAY
Ten years ago, the Michigan athletic department faced one of the darkest moments in its history.
The NCAA penalties from the Ed Martin booster violations became official, and the punishment included restrictions beyond Michigan’s self-imposed sanctions.
One of the longest penalties was the “disassociation” of the four players — Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock — who violated rules by accepting more than $600,000 from Martin. (Traylor died in 2011.)
While most are celebrating the end of the 10-year disassociation, there’s one key point to keep in mind: The 2003 public infractions report included the phrase “this disassociation shall be for at least 10 years.” That “at least” means the situation may not be completely resolved, though the disassociation could technically be over as soon as Wednesday, the 10-year anniversary of the penalties — and the bare minimum. The wording, however, suggests that it may not be over until Michigan (or perhaps even the NCAA) says it’s over.
Webber, a member of Michigan’s Fab Five, was the No.1 pick in the 1993 NBA draft and subsequently enjoyed a 15-year career in the NBA. Because of Webber’s role in the program’s violations, Michigan removed banners celebrating the school’s 1992 and 1993 Final Four appearances.
While Webber’s Fab Five teammates have clamored for a public embrace now that reconciliation is allowed, the athletic department maintained this week that there is nothing to publicly state about that.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, who took over the athletic department in 2010, told USA TODAY Sports in February that he has “good” relationships with a majority of the Fab Five members. He said then he has not met Webber, but he “looks forward to doing that one of these days.”
“I believe the more time that passes, the more we all remember the positive things about those teams, the Fab Five,” Brandon said. “There were more than five guys on those teams, and those guys accomplished some very important things that really changed the direction of basketball at the University of Michigan. I give them all the credit in the world — all of them.”
The disassociation required the following:
Looking at precedents set by other programs with similar histories, the vacated seasons will likely not be reinstated and the banners are not likely to be hung back up.
Former Fab Fiver and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose produced a documentary on the Fab Five in 2011; Webber was not interviewed in it. In the documentary, Brandon said Webber should apologize to the school.
Rose told USA TODAY Sports in February he didn’t think that would happen, but he hopes that Michigan will acknowledge and embrace the Fab Five era, instead of ignoring it.
“If you don’t want to put the banners back up, that’s fine,” Rose said. “I think they could put a black banner up with maize and blue around it and the Fab Five numbers on it, and say whatever they want to say and be done with it. But if they are going to wait for Chris to apologize to acknowledge what the coaches and the players and fans really want to see, I think they’re doing a disservice to the whole situation.
“I walk outside right now, I get hit by a bus and now everybody wants to honor me and the Fab Five. That’s how these situations work. I don’t want to have to go to some tragedy or a funeral, and then, ‘Oh my God, we really loved and appreciated them so much.’ “
Last month, Webber made an appearance at the Final Four in Atlanta. He tweeted a photo of himself watching the national championship game from a suite, and CBS cameras captured footage of him entering the Georgia Dome. The other members of the Fab Five sat a few rows behind the Michigan bench, and they also congratulated the current Michigan team for reaching the title game afterwards in the locker room.
Webber could not be reached for comment.
Mark Snyder contributed to this report. Snyder writes for the Detroit Free Press, a Gannett property.