Michigan Wolverines- Raiders of the Lost Books

Raiders

Gaps in the historical record of Michigan Wolverine Sports History

Esteemed writer John U. Bacon has written another book the on college football. Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, “…[which] searches for the sport’s old ideals amid the roaring flood of hypocrisy and greed, as he was embedded in four programs- Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern.” It joins Bacon’s other works; Blue Ice, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, and Three and Out, as mandatory reading for Michigan fans.

But what books should be written?

What gaps in the historical record still need to be filled?

I doubt that any of these men would write a no-holds barred account of their experiences but if they ever did it would be some amazing stuff.

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Fred Jackson

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Fred Jackson

Long time coach Fred Jackson has had a front row seat during the most turbulent times in recent Michigan Football history. Begin with that Jackson has been on staff for the four most recent head coaches; Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Brady Hoke. Jackson was there when Gary Moeller left the program in disgrace. He won a National Championship with Carr, and the was sole coaching survivor after RichRod brought in his own staff. As the losses and and criticism mounted, not to mention the problems with the NCAA , Jackson survived. When RichRod exited the Wolverine stage, Jackson once again made the transition to  a new staff being retained by new Coach Brady Hoke.

A great recruiter and a talented coach, Jackson is in a unique position to compare and contrast coaching regimes.

Lloyd Carr

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Lloyd Carr

A polarizing figure for many, Lloyd did what Bo was never able to do- win a National Championship. A great coach by the numbers and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, fans would probably be most interested in his thoughts on close of this career and the subsequent transition to RichRod.

A noted history buff, it would be fun to imagine Lloyd penning chapters in line with his interests:

Appalachian State- My Personal Waterloo

I am not Benedict Arnold- I Didn’t Undermine Anyone

Old Soldiers Don’t Die, They Just Fade Away- My Perceived Lack of Support for Rich Rodriguez

Humorous chapter titles aside, there are many questions that Lloyd could address. Starting with the persistent rumors of health problems, his snarly attitude with some members of media, and feuds with former Wolverine Quarterbacks  Jim Harbaugh and Rick Leach. What about his take on the athletic directors he has worked for?

Not to mention the elephant in the room- his behavior and attitude towards his successor Rich Rodriguez.

Did Lloyd really call Rodriguez to gauge his interest in the Michigan job?

What was he thinking when he offered to help his players transfer before Rodriguez arrived on campus?

What really went down when he met with Rodriguez for lunch at the Michigan Union to clear the air?

Rodriguez and his staff have aired their grievances. Lloyd declined to make himself available despite John Bacon’s efforts during the writing of Three and Out.

Someday Lloyd should answer these questions on the record. His answers would make for interesting reading.

It was Winston Churchill who said, “History is written by the victors.”  Lloyd is allowing the final word on his career to be told by RichRod- and that is unacceptable.

Chris Webber

Speck-Howard-WebberThe highs and lows of Webber’s Wolverine athletic career alone would make for a great book. From high school phenom to a cultural icon as leader of the Fab 5 his ill advised time-out crushed the hopes Wolverine fans. But his involvement in one of the largest NCAA scandals in history elevates his tale to the level of a Greek tragedy.

Many fans would like to see Webber and Fab 5 honored in some way by Michigan. Webber could go a long way towards rehabilitating his image with a thoughtful account of his disagreements with the NCAA and troubles as a reluctant witness during the federal investigation of bookmaker Ed Martin.

With former athletes challenging the NCAA right to profit from their likeness, a book by Webber would be most timely.

Chris could thrust himself back in to spotlight and perhaps help current college athletes in their quest for more compensation from the NCAA.

Bruce Madej

Michigan Assistant Athletic Director Bruce Madej recently announced his retirement. His career has spanned from Athletic Directors Don Canham to David Brandon, football coaches from Bo to Brady Hoke. His tenure began with stories written on typewriters and published via printing press and ends with reporters tweeting from the their smartphones to a global internet audience.

Madej has help the guide the coverage of virtually every major Michigan sports story for the last quarter century. He is a living encyclopedia of Michigan Wolverine history.

Fab 5: Time for New Ending

It wasn’t supposed to end that way.

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Once a long time ago, the Fab 5 ruled the world. As a University of Michigan during their reign, basketball made for a welcome diversion.

Their swagger, their style, and most of the all their play made them the talk of the country.

Wherever you went people were wearing Michigan gear.

Some older alums shunned their brazen style but most of the country embraced them as budding superstars.

As freshman they came up short in the national championship game but they returned to claim what was surely their pre-ordained  championship the following season.

Of course, we know what happened. Michigan didn’t win, falling to North Carolina 77-71 in the 1993 final. It was painful to watch.

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Chris Webber declared for the NBA draft and the Fab 5 were no more.

And in a perfect world the story would have ended there. A great team comes up short on the court but makes a huge cultural impact before eventually going  pro for NBA riches.

Of course, that wasn’t to be.

Mistakes made during their high school careers would come back to haunt some members of the Fab 5.

Webber, Rose, and Howard would go on to have successful NBA careers but the fallout from the booster scandal that began during their time in Ann Arbor and continued after their departure would result in many of their records being erased by the NCAA.

The scandal would also have grave implications for Michigan basketball program which struggled for years to dig out from the resulting sanctions.

Many Wolverine fans are bitter towards Chris Webber for his role in the scandal.

His comments about Michigan over the years haven’t done much to win over his detractors.

I should know, as I’ve carried around a lot of bitterness towards Webber since his role in the booster scandal became evident. But there is a lot of blame to go around from that era  starting with the coaches, parents, and administrators who all should have made better choices themselves. Not to mention a media (here’s looking at you Mitch Albom) who were eager to profit from the hoopla surrounding the Fab 5.

Webber’s mistakes now are over 20 years in past. It’s time to let it go. I doubt he’s the same person who made the wrong decisions back then.

And while I can’t imagine myself ever actively cheering for him, I’m done rooting against him. There’s too much positive happening with Michigan basketball under John Beilein to keep harping on 20 year old mistakes.

Tomorrow the Michigan Wolverine Basketball team will play for the National Championship in Atlanta. Many players on the team grew up idolizing the Fab 5.

At this point according to Jalen Rose, 4 of the Fab 5 will be present at the game. Only Chris Webber, who lives in Atlanta, has not confirmed his attendance.

Let’s be clear- this will be  a story whether Chris shows up or not. Right now the story depends on what choice Webber makes tomorrow. Hopefully Jalen will convince him to attend.

It would be a great boost for the team and maybe, just maybe, it would provide the groundwork for continued healing between Webber and the University of Michigan.

Webber can’t change the past but he does have an opportunity to inspire this current team by reuniting with his Fab 5 teammates in Atlanta.

It would be a great way to start writing a new ending for the Fab 5.

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Not so Fab 5- Sorry Jalen, the Banners Need to Stay Buried

Jalen Rose recently took to twitter to voice his displeasure with UM President Mary Sue Coleman’s position that the banners “won” by the Fab 5 won’t be returning to Crisler Center anytime soon.

 “I saw that U of Michigan has no plans to put back up our hoops banners. Should I do like most of its former BBallers & never return?” he tweeted. “Or should I ask for the 250k I donated for my Endowed Scholarship back & move it to another school? Stay Tuned.”

Athletic Director David Brandon followed up with the obvious explanation on why the banners won’t be returning:

“We’re not even sure that we could put those banners up,” Brandon said. “If you vacated wins and forfeited wins and basically cleared the record books of any activity, it’s hard to believe we could put back up the banners. We’ve never even gauged with the NCAA to see if that were possible.
“And, truthfully, if we had to forfeit the wins, it doesn’t seem appropriate.”

Members of the Fab 5 believe that their achievements are being unfairly ignored. You especially have to feel for Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, who never achieved success at the pro level like their college teammates Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose.

The Chris Webber/Ed Martin scandal wreaked havoc on the Michigan Basketball record book and forever tainted the Fab5 legacy. Many Wolverines fans would be happy to leave the scandal in the past and move on. Jalen clearly agrees with them.

The problem is that Chris Webber is guilty as sin and Jalen is wrong to blame Michigan for the banishment of the Fab 5. That blame rests solely on the shoulders of Webber. To blame Michigan would be like Jalen blaming the police for his recent DUI. In that incident Jalen rightly accepted blame for his actions:

“I have no one to blame but myself for endangering the community,” he told the judge.

But Jalen doesn’t use the same criteria when he chooses to look the other way with scandal brought Michigan by former teammate Chris Webber and bookie Ed Martin.

Chris Webber is a thief. His blatant disregard for the rules robbed the rest of the Fab 5 of their legacy and destroyed the memories of those seasons in the minds of Wolverine fans. He also stole from his opponents, it wasn’t enough that he had more talent in his pinky finger than many of them. He also didn’t need to burden himself with the same rules as the common players.

Webber’s post-Michigan career was also marked by a failure to follow the rules. When Chris was caught with drugs he denied responsibility. When he got a speeding ticket, the community didn’t appreciate him. When called to testify against bookie Ed Martin he lied through his teeth. Eventually his lies caught up with him and he was suspended for violating the NBA anti-drug policy and being forced to plead guilty to one charge of criminal contempt for lying to a federal grand jury.

Webber has never never expressed any regret for the dishonor he brought to Michigan. Perhaps if he had I might have some sympathy for him.

So the main reason for the banners not returning to Crisler Center from the dim archives of the Bentley Library are practical. The games have been erased so the banners are null and void. You can thank Chris Webber for that.

But there’s another more philosophical reason for the banners to stay buried.

To borrow a popular phrase these days- “THIS IS MICHIGAN…”

The Fab 5 never won a Big Ten title. The regular season was a mere inconvenience for them. And as far was being National Champion runner-ups, I can tell you as someone who attended Michigan during their reign, nobody was throwing them a parade for coming in second two years in a row. If you’re excited about losing in the Final Four you need to head up to East Lansing- they got that covered up there.

But I do offer a compromise. Disregarding his DUI Jalen has been an outstanding example of a Michigan Man since leaving the University of Michigan. He has contributed his time and money to many worthy charities and endowed a scholarship at Michigan. For these reasons, I propose that Michigan raise an unnamed #5 jersey to the rafters of Crisler Center.

For those willing to ignore the misdeeds of Chris Webber it can represent the Fab 5.

For the rest of us it can serve as a reminder to always question things that are simply too good to be true.