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Michigan bans itself from postseason

Posted: Thursday November 07, 2002 11:32 AM
Updated: Thursday November 07, 2002 11:20 PM
  Chris Webber Chris Webber was the biggest player at the center of the scandal. Allsport

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- They forfeited the victories, ordered the championship banners taken down and can't play in the postseason.

The Michigan Wolverines, who became one of college basketball's most successful programs during the "Fab Five" days of the 1990s, endured what the school's president called a "day of great shame" Thursday.

The university punished its men's basketball program after a federal investigation revealed that former booster Ed Martin had given a total of $616,000 to Chris Webber and three other ex-Michigan players.

Michigan announced it would prohibit the team from playing in either the NCAA tournament or the National Invitation Tournament after the upcoming season. The team also will forfeit 112 regular-season and tournament victories from five seasons, plus its victory in the 1992 NCAA semifinal.

The impact of the sanctions isn't limited to paper programs and media guides, which no longer will mention the names of Webber, Robert Traylor, Maurice Taylor or Louis Bullock. Fans will notice immediately, because four banners will be taken down at Crisler Arena: for the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours, the 1997 NIT title and the 1998 Big Ten tournament title.

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* Tommy Amaker and his team must pay dearly for the sins of several prominent former Michigan players. Start

*  SI's Seth Davis breaks down the ramifications.
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Michigan also said it would return to the NCAA $450,000 -- money it earned for appearing in the postseason -- and go on probation for two years.

"There is no excuse for what happened. It was wrong -- plain and simple," university president Mary Sue Coleman said. "This is a day of great shame."

The school announced the penalties in a letter to the NCAA on Thursday, after it received a formal letter of inquiry from the NCAA on Oct. 29. By imposing the sanctions, Michigan hopes to head off more severe action by the NCAA.

"We will now ask to get on the schedule for a hearing with the infractions committee as soon as possible," Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said "We hope it will be very soon."

Michigan hopes to meet with the NCAA in December, but it may have to wait until February. Six-to-eight weeks later, the school will find out whether the NCAA accepts the self-imposed sanctions or will add more.

The NCAA does not comment on pending investigations, spokesman Wally Renfro said.

The scandal centers on Martin, who pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to launder money. Martin has said he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent it to Webber and the other players, as well as their families.

"It was not a pretty picture of what happened here," said Marvin Krislov, the university's general counsel.

The scandal originated during the "Fab Five" era, when Webber and four other freshmen made the program into a national sensation. With their baggy shorts and black socks, Webber and future NBA players Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose led the Wolverines to consecutive NCAA finals in 1992 and 1993.

Webber, along with his father, Mayce Webber Jr., and aunt, Charlene Johnson, are charged with lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice in Martin's case. They have pleaded innocent, and their trials are not expected to begin until next year.

Martin, a retired Ford Motor Co. electrician, said he gave Webber and his family $280,000 in cash and gifts while the player was in high school and college. Webber has denied receiving any money, accusing Martin of "preying" on the naivete of him and other youngsters.

Webber could not be reached for comment Thursday because the Sacramento Kings had the day off after returning from a four-game road trip.

Martin also said he paid $160,000 to Traylor, who plays for the New Orleans Hornets; $105,000 to Taylor, who plays for the Houston Rockets; and $71,000 to Bullock, who plays for a professional team in Spain.

The four were never on the same team together, but all or parts of the seasons in which they played were affected by the forfeits: the Final Four of the 1991-92 season, which ended when Duke beat the Wolverines for the NCAA title; the 1992-93 season, which ended when North Carolina beat them for the title; and the four seasons beginning in the fall of 1995 and ending in the spring of 1999.

Martin's name first surfaced after Taylor lost control of his car on Feb. 17, 1996. Taylor was returning from a party in Detroit with four teammates who were entertaining Mateen Cleaves on his official recruiting visit. When Michigan found out that the visit included a visit to Martin's house, the school began to investigate his dealings with the basketball program.

Cleaves later signed with Michigan State and led that team to the 2000 NCAA title.

The highly publicized crash led to the first of three investigations and the firing of head coach Steve Fisher, casting a cloud that has hovered over the Michigan program ever since.

Fisher is currently the coach at San Diego State, and spoke briefly after practice Thursday night.

"I've got a copy of what was apparently released somewhere and I haven't had time to have thoughts on it or comments," Fisher said. "We'll fashion a statement that we will release tomorrow. Until then, I have no comment on it."

Last season, the Wolverines went just 11-18 and 5-11 in the Big Ten under first-year coach Tommy Amaker. He will have two years added to the five-year contract he signed last year, because of the two-year probation.


 
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