The University Record, October 15, 1997

Steve Fisher out. 'Time for a change,' Goss says

By Jane R. Elgass

Brian Ellerbe, who joined the basketball coaching staff in May, will supervise practices, which begin Saturday (Oct. 18), and manage the program under Goss's supervision until a new head coach is named. Ellerbe came to the U-M from Loyola College in B altimore, where he had been head coach for three years. Prior to that he was an assistant at Rutgers, where he had been a starter for four years; Bowling Green, George Mason, South Carolina and Virginia.

Athletic Director Tom Goss (left) and President Lee C. Bollinger at the Oct. 9 press conference. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

Honesty. Integrity. Accountability. Responsibility. Respect. Compassion. Competitive spirit. The "team" must come first.

Those are the core values of the Athletic Department as outlined by new Athletic Director Tom Goss when he announced at a quickly called press conference Oct. 11 that "it is time to make a change in the head men's basketball coach at the University of Michigan," ending Steve Fisher's 16-year career at the U-M.

In what he hopes will be a short process, Goss will be searching for an individual who embraces those values, who also "is a great teacher," and who is committed to the core purpose of the department as developed in recent meetings with all the coaches : "to create an environment to help student-athletes realize their potential academically, athletically and socially."

On Oct. 8, Goss and President Lee C. Bollinger received the results of an investigation of the men's basketball program conducted by the Overland Park, Kan., firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King that Bollinger commissioned last spring. The U-M had conducted an internal investigation, following media allegations of improprieties in the program, that led to the reporting of two minor violations to the NCAA. Bollinger asked for the outside investigation for two reasons: the U-M's might be wrong, and a lack o f public confidence in the internal report.

Bollinger released the report at a Oct. 9 press conference, saying at the time that while the report concluded that there was insufficient evidence of major NCAA violations, he did have some concerns.

"The standard for Michigan athletics is not to take pleasure in not having major NCAA violations. Our standards have been and will continue to be far, far higher than that," he said. "We owe this to our students, to parents, to the University and to the public. And we must have it to have credibility in the regional and national discussions about the nature of intercollegiate athletics." Goss noted at the Oct. 11 press conference that he was concerned with questions the report raised about some of Michigan's practices, procedures and standards, which he would review over the next few days with Fisher. "At that time, we will have a bette r understanding of our own standards and principles and how those relate to how we will operate at Michigan."

Goss had sent a copy of the report to Fisher, who was on vacation, and met with him Oct. 10. At the Oct. 11 press conference, Goss said that his meeting with Fisher "did not focus as much on the particular findings of the report as it did on my sense of what we need to do to move forward with a program of which we are all proud."

Fisher was not offered the option to resign.

In thanking Fisher for "his years of dedicated service and loyalty to the University and the Athletic Department," Goss said he would respect Fisher's right to privacy and did not wish to comment on any aspects of the conversation.

Concurring with Goss¹s decision, President Lee C. Bollinger issued a written statement at the press conference reiterating his comments when he hired Goss: "The athletic director should be responsible for seeing that the values, standards and practice s of the Department of Athletics reflect the values of the University as a whole. I brought Tom Goss here to uphold the values and standards of the University, and I've given him the freedom he needs to do that."

Goss has appointed Brian Ellerbe, who joined the basketball staff in May and is the only member of the staff with recent head coaching experience, to conduct practices and manage the program under Goss's supervision during the search for a new head coa ch. The new coach will decide whether to retain any of the current coaching staff.

Fisher was named interim head coach by then-Athletic Director Bo Schembechler March 15, 1989, following Bill Frieder's acceptance of the head coaching job at Arizona State, just before the start of the NCAA finals. Fisher was named coach-Michigan's 13 th-April 10, following the Wolverines' national championship win.

Fisher joined the U-M in 1981 as an assistant coach after serving as assistant coach at Western Michigan University and as head coach of a high school team in Park Forest, Ill.