By Kevin Bull and Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press –
For nearly 10 years, former Michigan basketball player Jalen Rose has made it his personal mission to ensure his teams’ legacies in Ann Arbor.
His first two Fab Five teams each won 20-plus games and ended the season playing for a national championship. But those memories have been hidden away since Michigan was sanctioned by the NCAA for violations in the Ed Martin booster scandal. The school agreed to remove all banners and awards as well as to vacate games played by the four players caught accepting money.
In November 2002, the 1992 and ‘93 NCAA finalist banners of Rose’s teams came down from the Crisler Arena rafters because of Chris Webber’s involvement in the Martin scandal. Banners for the 1997 NIT championship and 1998 Big Ten tournament title also came down because of loans accepted by Maurice Taylor, Louis Bullock and the late Robert Traylor.
Rose has publicly pointed out how symbolic the banners and awards are for the 1991-92 and 1992-93 teams. He hopes the banners will be restored and the teams honored in 2013, when Michigan’s 10-year sanction with the four players will end.
Yet when Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman answered a student question last month about the removed banners by saying: “What happened was not good, and I don’t think they’ll ever go back up. I don’t,” as reported by the Michigan Daily, it stung those involved.
Rose fired back on Twitter, suggesting he may reconsider his ongoing academic scholarships to Michigan. Rose and fellow Fab Five member Jimmy King did not return messages from the Detroit Free Press seeking comment. Webber, Taylor and Bullock have made few, if any, public overtures to the university since the ban.
Coleman’s answer must have hurt the affected players — especially those from the Fab Five era who had so much national success and were lauded by the university at the time. It also was a striking statement when Michigan honored its greatest players at the opening of the Player Development Center in January that athletes from the 1990s (not to mention the 1980s) were virtually absent.
“Some day, I won’t be president anymore, and maybe someone else will have a different view,” Coleman said to the students in the chat. “But I think you have to reflect on the larger meaning and that we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
The banners and awards — in storage at the Bentley Historical Library on Michigan’s North Campus — may never go back up.
That’s because most schools, including Michigan, have interpreted most of the penalties to be permanent. Nine other teams had Final Four appearances vacated and only two — Massachusetts and Western Kentucky — are believed to have banners displayed in their arenas.
Michigan vacated more games (114) and more seasons (six) than any other basketball program penalized by the NCAA.
Many experts have knocked the vacated-game penalties as confusing and hollow, with no real effect, because everyone who saw the games remembers them, and they are still shown regularly on television and in highlights. But removing and refusing to display banners from tarnished seasons does make an impact.
The missing banners were important enough that Rose and director Jason Hehir made them part of the intro and conclusion of ESPN Films’ “Fab Five” documentary last year.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told reporters recently that he isn’t sure the banners can be raised again, adding, “If we had to forfeit the wins, it doesn’t seem appropriate.” He did say an alternate way of honoring that part of the school’s basketball history could be considered.