With two letters and three exclamation points, Chris Webber kicked off what promises to be a fascinating chapter in the history of Michigan athletics — the reunion between the Wolverines and one of their most controversial stars.
Webber’s simple tweet landed at exactly midnight — the precise end of his 10-year punishment by the NCAA for the Ed Martin scandal. During that period, the school wasn’t allowed to associate with Webber, meaning there was no chance of a reconciliation for the school and the Fab Five.
Webber was accused of taking $280,000 from Martin and pled guilty to criminal contempt in a plea deal that avoided charges of perjury. The Wolverines served four years of probation as well as other punishments because of the scandal, which also included Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock. Taylor and Bullock’s 10-year sentences ended in 2012. Traylor died in 2011.
For most of that decade, Webber seemed perfectly happy to have left Michigan and the basketball program behind. He didn’t take part in the Fab Five documentary, choosing to focus on his blossoming career as an NBA analyst.
Last month, however, Webber showed up at the national championship game between Louisville and the Wolverines. He chose not to sit with his college teammates, but his presence in the building was seen as a positive sign.
On Tuesday, the last day of his ban, Webber tweeted about his plans to write a book, and verified that his Michigan years will be a major part of the narrative.
Then, like he had been listening to Dick Clark’s countdown, he posted his enigmatic tweet at the very second he was allowed back into the Michigan family.
Now, he must wait to see if he will be welcomed back with open arms.
Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman has said she doesn’t expect the Fab Five’s Final Four banners to ever see the light of day again, and athletic director Dave Brandon stated that any reconciliation would have to start with an apology from Webber.
To date, Webber has never come close to apologizing for his part in the scandal.
Michigan has also made little attempt to change its relationship with Taylor and Bullock or make any posthumous recognition of Traylor. The 1997 NIT banner hasn’t been put back up, nor has the one for the 1998 Big Ten tournament championship.
But the other three players never had the star power that Webber brought to the school. If not for the scandal, his jersey would almost certainly be hanging in the Crisler Center rafters — possibly in the spot now reserved for Trey Burke.
It’s the Fab Five that Michigan fans want to see, not the 1997 and 1998 teams, and Webber, Coleman and Brandon can now begin work on making that happen.
Webber started the process on Twitter. Where things will go next is anyone’s guess.