'Day of great shame' at Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — 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" yesterday.

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.

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," said university President Mary Sue Coleman. "This is a day of great shame."

The school announced the penalties in a letter to the NCAA yesterday, 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," said Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin. "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 naiveté of him and other youngsters.

Webber could not be reached for comment yesterday because the Sacramento Kings had the day off.


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