ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan’s 10-year dissociation from Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor and Louis Bullock has ended.
The former Wolverines have to want to reconnect with the school. And the institution has to welcome them back after they were part of one of the biggest scandals in NCAA history.
Michigan I’ve never met any of those guys, and I am looking forward to meeting them. If any of those guys are interested in meeting with me, that would be great.
” — Michigan AD Dave Brandon
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon insisted the door is open.
“I’ve never met any of those guys, and I am looking forward to meeting them,” Brandon said late Tuesday night in an interview with The Associated Press. “If any of those guys are interested in meeting with me, that would be great.”
No one, though, is sure when or if those face-to-face or telephone conversations will happen.
“I don’t see much movement and I don’t see the sense of urgency at all,” fellow Fab Five member Jalen Rose told the Detroit News. “I see a line in the sand that was drawn basically saying if Chris doesn’t apologize, they’re going to punish everybody else.”
Rose, now a TV analyst for ESPN, told the newspaper the ball is in Michigan’s court with the expiration of the sanctions.
“It’s not on Chris; it’s on Michigan,” Rose said. “They can choose to acknowledge what we accomplished regardless of what he does.
“If it’s not something that affects their bottom line, they’re not going to be in a rush to act.”
The NCAA forced Michigan to dissociate from Webber, Taylor, Bullock and the late Robert Traylor for a decade — until Wednesday — because a federal investigation revealed that now-deceased booster Ed Martin gave them more than $600,000 when they were student-athletes.
Webber, Taylor and Bullock now have the option of renewing their relationship with the school if they choose.
Brandon declined to say whether each of them would have to apologize for what they were accused of doing.
“I wasn’t around when all of this happened,” he said. “I’ve never had an opportunity to interact with them to talk about anything and I am hopeful that opportunity will present itself.”
Taylor hopes so, too.
“This morning, I felt really good about the dissociation being over and having the opportunity to reunite with the University of Michigan,” Taylor told The AP on Wednesday. “I’m excited to talk to Mr. Brandon and coach (John) Beilein. While I had some success in the NBA, there was a void in my life because of the circumstances. I had three of the best years of my life there and I love that school and all that it stands for.”
Martin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, saying he took gambling money and combined it with other funds in loans to Webber, other players and their families.
Martin died in February 2003 on the same day Michigan officials met with the NCAA infractions committee.
“Ed was made out to be something he wasn’t, he wasn’t a booster who steered you to a school or guy who preyed on kids,” said Taylor, a retired NBA player, who lives in Houston and works for a private equity business. “He was just a great guy in Detroit, who helped out anybody playing ball of any kind in the city. When each one of us took money or gifts from Ed, long before we were in college, we were looking through innocent eyes. We weren’t trying to hurt Michigan.
“I think it was a little harsh that we were punished for such a long period of time for what we did as kids.”
Messages seeking comment were left by The Associated Press for Webber and Bullock. Traylor died in 2011, when police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was playing professionally, found him dead in his oceanfront apartment.
A decade ago, the NCAA barred the Wolverines from postseason play for one year, took scholarships away and put the school on probation for what the governing body said was “one of the most egregious violations of NCAA laws in the history of the organization.”
“I didn’t do anything, so I don’t feel sorry for them,” Webber once said.
Martin’s name surfaced after Taylor lost control of his car on Feb. 17, 1996. He was returning from a party in Detroit with four teammates who were entertaining Mateen Cleaves on his official recruiting visit. Cleaves later signed with Michigan State and led that team to the 2000 NCAA title.
The well-publicized crash led to the first of three investigations, the firing of coach Steve Fisher and the cloud that has hovered over Michigan’s basketball program until current coach John Beilein turned the team around in recent years.
Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — three-fifths of the Fab Five — were honored by the school in a bittersweet ceremony Nov. 21, 2010, during halftime of a game at Crisler Arena.
Above their heads in the rafters, the 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners they helped the Wolverines earn were missing. The school took them down, rolled them up, wrapped them in plastic and tucked them behind a locked door on the bottom shelf of a narrow cage near other artifacts such as Civil War diaries.
Juwan Howard, who plays for the Miami Heat, reunited with Rose, King and Jackson last month in Atlanta to watch the Wolverines play Louisville in the NCAA final.
Webber was there, too, but he was in a suite.
“You can’t think of Michigan without thinking of us,” Webber said in a 2007 interview with the AP.