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Updated 3:00 PM May 8, 2003
 

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U-M will appeal postseason ban, but accepts other sanctions on basketball program

President Mary Sue Coleman says U-M will appeal the one-year postseason ban imposed by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, but otherwise accepts the sanctions handed down by the committee May 8, bringing to a conclusion a series of events that have been at the center of three investigations over a seven-year period.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and Athletic Director Bill Martin (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

The NCAA banned U-M from postseason play for the 2003-04 season, took away one of its 13 scholarships every season for four years beginning in 2004-05, and placed the University on probation for a total of four years. The NCAA penalties come on top of sanctions self-imposed last fall by the University.

In addition, the committee said, U-M must disassociate, for a period of 10 years, the four former student-athletes involved in the case—Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock. The NCAA said the four players were found to have accepted cash and gifts from retired autoworker and self-proclaimed basketball booster Ed Martin prior to enrolling at Michigan and during their careers at U-M. Martin died Feb. 14, the same day U-M went before the Committee on Infractions to plead its case.

“First and foremost, we remain committed to the integrity of our athletics program,” Coleman said at a press conference following the NCAA’s announcement. “We agree that these were very serious infractions and we accept the additional penalties imposed by the committee. We own the wrongdoing and we own the responsibility.

“However, I am disappointed that the committee’s action will have the effect of punishing our current, uninvolved athletes with an additional one-year ban on postseason play. We believe this contradicts one of the core principles of the NCAA—to do as little as possible to harm current, uninvolved student-athletes.”

U-M Men's Basketball Coach Tommy Amaker (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

During a teleconference from Indianapolis with media assembled at Crisler Arena and nationwide, Thomas Yeager, chair of the infractions committee, acknowledged that all the players, coaches and administrators at U-M while the violations were occurring are gone from the University, and the current student-athletes are innocent of wrongdoing.
But he justified the additional sanctions based on the seriousness of the infractions, calling the Michigan case “one of the three or four most egregious violations of NCAA bylaws in the history of the association.”

Yeager said the committee’s decision to impose additional sanctions was mitigated by the University’s cooperation in the NCAA investigation and Coleman’s courage and leadership in dealing with the violations.

“President Coleman is to be commended for the decisive action she took, knowing that she would be criticized by many Michigan fans,” Yeager said. “She did so because she believed it was the right thing to do. The University has fully accepted its responsibility in this case and it has imposed meaningful sanctions on itself.”

Yeager said any scholarship players faced with a postseason ban that encompasses their remaining eligibility are allowed to transfer without having to sit out the following year, per current NCAA transfer rules. U-M head coach Tommy Amaker said he met May 7 with players still in Ann Arbor for the summer, and all indicated they would stay with the team. If the University’s appeal is unsuccessful, senior forward Bernard Robinson Jr. will miss the NCAA Tournament during his final season.

The association’s ruling came 12 weeks after U-M officials appeared before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Florida and almost six months to the day after the University self-imposed sanctions on the program.

“We have said time and time again that our goal has been to get to the truth and have a program that is fully in compliance with NCAA rules. Everything we have done is with that goal in mind,” said Bill Martin, U-M director of athletics. “In 1996, when we began the first of three investigations, those involved would not cooperate and we were not able to get to the truth. Only an unrelated federal investigation of Ed Martin allowed us to finally uncover the details.”

On July 26, 2002, attorneys representing U-M and the late Ed Martin detailed $616,000 in loans made in the 1990s by Ed Martin to Webber, Traylor, Taylor and Bullock, in violation of NCAA rules.

At a Nov. 7, 2002, press conference, Coleman and Bill Martin detailed the findings of U-M’s investigation and delivered a final report to the NCAA that included the following self-imposed sanctions:

• Declaring the program ineligible to compete in 2002-03 postseason play
• Vacating the results of 114 games won while the four players were eligible, including the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours, the entire 1992-93 season, and all seasons from fall 1995 through spring 1999
• Removal of four championship banners hanging in Crisler Arena
• Repayment of revenues the University received for participating in postseason play with the ineligible players
• Placing the program on probation for two years, during which time Coleman will supervise detailed reports on compliance made to the NCAA.

“We imposed these severe sanctions because we thought it was the right thing to do,” Martin said. “We made a deliberate decision to announce the sanctions publicly, because we thought it would set a positive example for accountability.”

The Wolverines were affected immediately by the 2003 postseason ban, as a 13-game midseason winning streak put U-M (17-13 final record) in contention for at least a bid to the National Invitational Tournament and perhaps the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m so proud of Coach Tommy Amaker and of all the team has accomplished this year,” Bill Martin said. “These young men have held their heads high in the face of an extremely difficult situation.”

Coleman said the time has come to move forward, noting that the appeal focused on the one-year postseason ban is expected to conclude by early fall. “We will now concentrate all of our efforts in supporting Coach Amaker and his great work to build a basketball program at the University of Michigan,” she said.


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