A lot have things have been said recently about the University of Michigan honoring “The Fab Five” as an entire group, but it is not something that they have shown the willingness to do, and rightfully so.
As many of you know, the Fab Five is the nickname that was given to the Wolverines’ 1991 basketball recruiting class consisting of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King. The group played for two national titles in 1992 and 1993, but lost both times.
Without going into too much detail and reliving too much of the past, all of the wins and Final Four appearances this group played in from 1991-1993 after it was discovered that Webber, along with Robert Traylor, Louis Bullock, and Maurice Taylor accepted illegal benefits from Ed Martin. Head coach Steve Fisher was fired, the program had to remove the 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners, among other sanctions. The investigation also found that between 1988 and 1993, Martin gave Webber about $280,000 in benefits.
Jalen Rose spoke out recently saying that Michigan was doing the Fab Five a disservice by not honoring them as a group, as Michigan’s ten year “disassociation” with Webber ended in 2013. That being said, just because they can acknowledge him, it doesn’t mean that they should.
We are entering an era now where the Michigan basketball program is just now regaining the national prominence that they had before the Ed Martin scandal. This is a new era, and I personally feel that the university does a very nice job of honoring the all-time greats for the most part.
Chris Webber cannot be one of those that are honored, and hence, there is a no way a Fab Five recognition can happen. He was a fantastic player in a group that did fantastic things, but he was part of something that crippled the program, and that is not something that can be celebrated. Many people played a part in the fall of the Michigan basketball program, but Webber is the marquee name in all of that.
Perhaps if Webber set the record straight and addressed the situation now that the university can acknowledge him, things could change. To this point, he hasn’t shown a willingness to do that. While other members of the Fab Five watched last year’s national title game together, Webber was watching separately in a private box.
It is a shame, because guys like Rose, Howard, Jackson, and King did great things to help the program have success, but like coaches always say, “If one person on the team fails, you all pay the price.” These other players deserve to be honored, and they have to some extent, but honoring the five of them as a group is not something that Michigan should do.
For example, the Chicago White Sox will never honor Joe Jackson for his role in the scandal surrounding the 1919 World Series. Pete Rose is still blacklisted from Major League Baseball for gambling on the sport. Former USC running back Reggie Bush isn’t getting his Heisman Trophy reinstated after taking illegal benefits. And more recently, the Ohio State football program’s 12-0 season in 2012 means nothing because they were not able to play for anything in the wake of the famous tattoo scandal involving Jim Tressel and players.
The Fab Five changed college basketball forever in many ways, both good and bad, but the good that they did has an asterisk next to it, and that should not be recognized even after the sanctions have passed.
The fans deserve better. Rose, Jackson, Howard, and King deserve better. The university deserves better.
Time will tell if old wounds can heal, but in the here and now, in 2014, recognition of this era of Michigan basketball benefits no one.