When the U.S. Attorney's office in Detroit indicted former Michigan booster Ed Martin last week, claiming he laundered $616,000 from an illegal gambling operation by loaning it to Chris Webber and other Wolverines basketball players, it confirmed what some Michigan supporters had suspected. "We had one of the dirtiest programs ever," says Don Canham, the school's athletic director from 1968 to '88. "It's a disgrace."
Martin, a 68-year-old retired autoworker, began befriending Detroit-area hoops stars in the mid-'80s, and his ties to Webber, now with the Kings, and the Bulls' Jalen Rose were well known when those two were on Michigan's Fab Five teams in the early '90s. But three investigations by the school, including a 1997 probe that banned Martin from associating with Michigan athletic programs, uncovered little wrongdoing because players denied taking money or wouldn't talk. According to last week's indictment, Martin, who could spend 25 years in jail, gave loans of $280,000 to Webber, $160,000 to Robert Traylor, $105,000 to Maurice Taylor and $71,000 to Louis Bullock, all former Wolverines. ( Martin pleaded not guilty.)
Taylor and Bullock admitted to the grand jury that they took money from Martin, recanting earlier denials, according to their lawyer, Steve Fishman. "Lying to the NCAA is one thing," says Fishman. "Lying to a grand jury is another. That's perjury." Traylor declined to comment, as did Webber, who often complained during his college days that he didn't have enough money to buy dinner while Michigan made millions off him. According to a source close to the case, Webber was the most combative and least forthcoming of the former players to appear before the grand jury.
The NCAA will reexamine Martin's involvement with Michigan and could penalize the school with probation and a loss of scholarships. The Wolverines' Final Four trips in '92 and '93 could also be purged from the books. "This is just the beginning," says Canham. "There were more players involved than those in the indictment, and mere were more schools involved with Martin than Michigan."