What They’re Saying: Chris Webber Disassociation Ends

Dylan Burkhardt

5840619Michigan’s ten year disassociation period with Chris Webber, Louis Bullock, Maurice Taylor and the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor officially came to a close on Wednesday.

While reconciliation between the University of Michigan and the banned players doesn’t necessarily seem imminent, there is enough tact involved in all parties’ comments to believe something could happen eventually. We rounded up some of the best reactions from David Brandon, players that were involved and notable media voices.

Webber hasn’t commented officially but he has been active on Twitter. He tweeted “OK!!!” at 12 midnight on May 8th, retweeted several comments about Michigan and tweeted a picture of Aaliyah wearing his #4 Michigan jersey later in the afternoon.

Others have been active in the media, including Michigan athletic director David Brandon, who spoke with the Associated Press:

“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.”

“I wasn’t around when all of this happened,” Brandon said. “I’ve never had an opportunity to interact with them to talk about anything and I am hopeful that opportunity will present itself.”

Maurice Taylor also spoke with Larry Lage for the Associated Press:

“This morning, I felt really good about the dissociation being over and having the opportunity to reunite with the University of Michigan,” Taylor said. “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.”

Jalen Rose, rarely caught without a comment, was active in the media as well. Rose told the Detroit News that it will come down to an apology from Webber to Michigan.

“I don’t see much movement and I don’t see the sense of urgency at all,” Rose said. “I see a line in the sand that was drawn basically saying if Chris doesn’t apologize, they’re going to punish everybody else.”

“It’s not on Chris; it’s on Michigan,” Rose said. “They can choose to acknowledge what we accomplished regardless of what he does.

Meanwhile Dan Wetzel makes a compelling case that reconciliation should hinge on a completely different apology: the University apologizing to Chris Webber.

The most puzzling – and unfortunate – penalty, however, was when the NCAA forced Michigan to “disassociate” itself from Webber and the others for a decade, a term that ended on May 8.

The disassociation worked well in pushing the spotlight of blame away from the system or the coaches or the administrators or the circumstances or even Martin, and right on the players. It’s all Chris Webber’s fault!

Never mind that the university has numerous buildings bearing the name of Alfred Taubman, a billionaire donor who actually went to prison on antitrust charges and it never disassociated from him.

This was the NCAA! This was bad! And besides, isn’t Webber sort of unlikable and aloof? Didn’t a lot of people hate that hot-dogging, baggy short-wearing team of his? And didn’t he once complain it wasn’t fair that he couldn’t afford to eat at McDonald’s while the school sold his jersey in the bookstore when, in fact, he was flush with Martin’s money? What a liar.

It all fit nicely in a box, wrapped in a bow. Come back and apologize C-Webb, and we’ll even show you how to forgive and forget. How magnanimous of us.

Yago Colas wrote an editorial viewpoint on the Fab Five and their banners in early February that’s well worth a read.

Lastly, the banners represent our past — a complex past both inspiring and troubling. In having such a past, the University is no different from any of us, the individuals comprising it. We may feel the impulse to turn our backs on aspects of our past that trouble us. But an important part of the process of maturing with integrity, as individuals, as a community and as a society, involves opening ourselves to that past. Restoring the banners sets an example for members of the Michigan community and, indeed, for other universities and social institutions in general, that the best way to move forward is by fearlessly incorporating an understanding of that past into the present as we orient ourselves toward the future.

Nicole Auerbach runs down some of the basics in USA TODAY while Nick Baumgardner details the timeline over the last 17 years.

While it seems the actual Final Four banners might never grace the rafters again, the chance of a “Fab Five” banner seems somewhat more likely. Rose discussed that option during a quick interview on ESPN.

  • Mattski

    Appreciate this even-handed representation of the issues and various writers’ takes. My hunch is that some quiet meetings take place and people representing both Webber and the U hammer out some language acceptable to both sides; next year some time we begin to get some low-key encounters leading to some cathartic event of commemoration or remembrance of the Fab V’s considerable cultural and basketball achievements.

    The punishment has been served and all parties have every right to move on–including in forming a rapprochement that enables the Fab Five figures to become part of the Michigan community once again. That’s the way punishment is supposed to work–that it includes some horizon for redemption and renewal, too.

    Clearly, Webber’s tweets suggest that he is relieved and pleased that the long period of isolation has ended. That in itself is encouraging, as are Brandon’s remarks.

    • James

      I agree. I suspect Jalen’s exaggerating the University’s stance on Webber. They’ll come up with something that’s short of a public apology, but respectful to both sides.

    • Champswest

      I understand how the university, the Michigan community, the basketball program and the fan base have been punished and how they have suffered. Please explain to me just how has Chris Webber has suffered.

      • Mattski

        We can’t read his thoughts, but there is plenty of evidence it was painful for him, and everyone. But I’m not trying to infer that the punishment was commensurate, adequate–anything; I myself am quite undecided about it all. I’m just saying that it’s over, and that when punishments end then people, in a way that is generally agreed-upon by society, move on. All parties can now legitimately embrace this right. Mostly people just want to argue about the crimes, but that phase is now moving into the past.

  • Narf

    Wetzel/Jalen are 100% in the right here

    • sane1

      Webber took money from Ed Martin, a LOT of money, and not as a 13 year old, and not without his parents knowing about it, and while he was at Michigan. College players who take money are ineligible. This is not a technicality. Their wins are vacated as a consequence. Webber was a full grown adult when he lied to a federal grand jury. He was fortunate that Ed Martin dies. He might have done jail time. Michigan is supposed to apologize to Webber?

      I understand how Jalen feels, but the Fab 5 legacy was tainted by onebguy and they all suffer. And, BTW, this is Michigan, not Fab 5 U. Love how these guys forget about the other guys on the team, how it’s all about THEIR legacy. So different from the current team.

      • AADave

        Was Webber taking a gift or loan illegal or even inherently immoral? No. What rules did it violate? NCAA rules that he was coerced into agreeing to if he wished to pursue a basketball career in this country. Due to the NCAA’s power as a monopoly, he had no other real option.

        The NCAA has been granted an unfair exemption from antitrust law and uses it monopoly power to abuse and exploit players. That’s why the Rutgers thing happened and Bobby Knight got away with abusing players for decades. It’s also why players that had nothing to do with a supposed infraction are punished. It’s why coaches are allowed to change schools on a whim while athletes must sit out a year.. It’s also why coaches are paid millions (and other university executives are also paid big bucks) while elite athletes like Webber are exploited at way below market prices. I could go on and on. Power corrupts and the NCAA has lots of it.

        Estimates suggest Webber’s contribution at Michigan was worth at least 4 times what he legally took as a gift or loan from Martin.

        Was Webber guilty of dishonesty, selfishness and greed? Yes.

        But the NCAA’s actions are much worse.

        The NCAA, not Webber, is the real villain here.

        • section13row15

          Getting a free education while showcasing your skills to the world / NBA and getting drafted #1 overall because of it is exploiting players? Not sure of your reasoning there.

          • Matt

            Do you really think the NBA would not have been interested in Webber without Michigan? He was the number 1 recruit in the country out of high school.

          • section13row15

            We can go round and round on this. Nobody forced him to go to college let alone for two years. He chose to do that on his own. Playing sports for your university is fun, you should try it sometime.

        • a2sk

          The NCAA is a flawed organization, but this argument is ridiculous for so many reasons:
          – Whether or not you agree with the NCAA or its rules, the schools have agreed to follow them and the athletes are aware of them. Breaking those rules and hiding it, or lying about it to a grand jury in the case of Chris Webber, is still wrong. He was guilty of dishonesty at the very least and deserves his punishment. Because he broke rules that were intended to level the playing field in college sports, others can rightly say that Michigan cheated to achieve their victories while he was a student.
          – As the parent of two kids in college with another starting in the fall, I am painfully aware of the cost of a college education and the value of a full ride scholarship. Anyone who thinks that scholarship athletes aren’t getting compensated is free to write the checks in my household for the next 4 years.
          – The NCAA is flawed, but what is the alternative or how would you fix it? Without any rules about compensating athletes, you might as well completely separate college from competitive sports (an idea that seems more appealing all the time). Otherwise, the schools with the deepest pockets, or with richest boosters, will always get the best players. You might was well get rid of all the student requirements and simply make them professional teams.
          – You are naive to think that there aren’t lots of rules that govern salaries and compensation that may seem unfair to employees. Even the NBA has rules about how much players get paid based on their position in the draft. Is that fair?

      • matt

        The one thing I agree with you about is the fact that the Fab 5 seems to be ignoring the fact that they were not the only ones on that team. I don’t like the idea of a Fab 5 banner for that reason and that reason alone.

        • A2JD

          Same here. The role players chipped in here and there in games and also helped in practices.

  • Kenny

    I don’t blame Webber for taking a loan from Ed. Martin and wholeheartedly welcome C-Webber back, but anyone re-telling or believing of the story of him not able to afford burger king has to be an idiot.

    • Stephen Sprague

      Mitch Albom is soooooo pissed at you right now!

    • Matt

      Everything I have seen indicates that his dad took the money and not Chris himself. So he may not have been able to afford Burger King.

  • a2sk

    I wonder how many of you would react the same way if we were talking about Ohio State or Michigan State players who took money from a booster? The simple fact is that paying players under the table is a form of cheating under the rules that govern college sports. I agree with Wetzel that the University shares a lot of the blame – at the very least the coaches had to know what was going on. But apologize to Webber – No way!

    I am all in favor of quietly acknowledging the end of the disassociation and moving on. But I am not in favor of behaving as if a very shameful period in Michigan athletics never happened.

    • Steve2081

      The cheating didn’t bother me nearly as much as the getting caught did.

      Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat!

  • PolSci

    If only Ed Martin had owned a jewelry store and had simply given Webber a line of credit, then all would be good.

  • Roanman

    Chris Weber through his own actions thoroughly embarrassed the University of Michigan and in doing so plunged a nationally respected basketball program into a decade of pain. The University owes him nothing that even remotely resembles an apology. As far as I’m concerned Weber, Bullock and Taylor are the same as Traylor …. dead, and can remain that way for the rest of time.

    Their disassociation should have extended for a century. They should only be remembered as a stain on a great institution.

    The only guys I feel sorry for here are Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose and their teams in general because Chris Weber single handedly screwed them out of the good feeling about their careers that they earned with their play.