Overshadowed scandal: This is the 10-year anniversary of the season that Michigan's Fab Five team, one of the most popular in college basketball history, ran to the national championship game. And what is being done to commemorate the achievement?
The school is considering taking down its two Final Four banners and returning the money it earned from the 1992 and '93 NCAA tournaments.
''It's premature to go there,'' Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said Monday. ''But those are things that obviously will be discussed.''
It has not only been discussed already, but also suggested by former longtime UM athletic director Don Canham. ''The entire era of the Fab Five was a disgrace to the University of Michigan,'' Canham told the Detroit Free Press. ''These are probably the most flagrant violations where money is involved in the history of intercollegiate athletics.''
The Fab Five's legacy, if anyone notices, is in jeopardy over alleged loans that star player Chris Webber and others received from former auto worker Ed Martin--no relation to UM's Bill Martin--who has been indicted on charges of money-laundering, conspiracy and running an illegal gambling business.
U-M pledges to uncover all in probe of booster: Martin said he was shocked by allegations unsealed last week in a federal indictment that accused former U-M booster Eddie Martin of loaning more than $600,000 to four U-M players from the 1990s. [...] "The amounts were staggering," Martin said of the alleged loans to former stars Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock. "We've got to do what's right, even if the NCAA does not do what's right. This is a major case."
(In theory, I suppose I should disclose that I'm a UM grad school graduate. However, my sum involvement with the athletic program in any way shape or form was being pissed off at my landlord for selling parking next to my apartment for football games and not telling me, dealing with the utter gridlock and hazard to pedestrian existence that Ann Arbor becomes during football season, and getting to go to class the day after they teargassed our classrooms for no good reason the night that UM lost the national title basketball game. So I'm not terribly well disposed to UM athletics generally. You wuz warned.)
Well, well, well.
It will be interesting to see how far the NCAA decides to take this. For one thing, given the amounts involved, I can't imagine that it's limited to only the basketball program -- although that's only a guess. But given the amounts involved, the only reasonable thing for the NCAA to do, if the allegations are proven, is to subject Michigan basketball to the "death penalty". They've already served probation related to these charges, and the NCAA will justifiably be furious that all of these charges didn't come out during the initial investigation.
That said, I would find it highly unlikely that the NCAA would subject a Big Ten program to the death penalty, however well deserved. It took Southern Methodist a long string of probations before the NCAA finally said, "Enough!" Tulane subjected its programs to the death penalty, but that was self imposed, and involved points shaving and the like. There is currently no such allegation regarding these programs.
That said, given the amounts, I think that it would be understating the case to say that there is "a lack of institutional control", which is one of the things that tends to make the NCAA impose heavy sanctions. If the charges are proven, Michigan is likely to be on probation in basketball for a good long time, and they will have a miserable time rebuilding the program.
Yet another argument for banning intercollegiate athletics at this level and of this type. It's never going to happen, of course. As long as they're highly visible programs which pull in alumni donations, they'll never go away. We should have developmental and farm leagues for every sport -- it's notable that scandals like this simply don't seem to happen in baseball, which is the only one of the major sports with an extensive introductory professional level. (Of course, it's also notable that nobody pays attention to collegiate baseball -- it's baffling that a sport can be so adored at the Little League and professional levels, and so utterly ignored in between.) Intercollegiate athletics should be on something like the Division 2 or Division 3 level -- scholarships for those who can't afford to get to college any other way, but not big-time sports.Posted by iain at March 26, 2002 01:30 PM