An Open Letter to Chris Webber

Submitted by Michigan Eaglet on April 4th, 2013 at 12:43 AM

I know this is a polarizing topic to many within this fanbase, but I came across this letter written by a professor at Michigan titled "An Open Letter to Chris Webber: You are loved."

In it he discusses a possible way for him to reconcile with the past and his influence on the freshman currently on the roster. He actually teaches a class with all five of the freshman in it so he has some real perspective on the topic. I know many people have their minds made up on the issue of whether or not the Fab Five should be honored, but in light of the Final Four this weekend, I thought it might foster a good discussion on the board about taking a realistic approach on how to deal with the past properly. If you don't think Chris Webber should ever be allowed on campus, you're entitled to that opinion, but the ban ends in May and sooner or later something will probably happen involving the Fab Five, and Chris Webber will probably be one of the main driving forces behind how good or bad the results end up being for him, the Fab Five and the university as well.



April 4th, 2013 at 1:40 AM ^

First, I don't think it's that great of a piece. He's telling Webber how much he's loved, by himself, the current players and something about all of humanity appreciating him showing up. It's not about Chris Webber.

Webber cheated. The basketball program is just now getting over what he did two decades ago. Blah blah blah, we all know the story. I'll never forgive Chris Webber and why should I? My memories of the basketball program when I was in school are banners coming down and none going up in their place.

I want to see the current players have their rightful moment in the spotlight this weekend (and Monday), not Chris Webber. He had his time to represent the University, and look what he chose to do.


April 4th, 2013 at 2:16 AM ^

Webber didn't cheat, he was a high school kid who was offered things he could never have purchased on his own and took it to make his life better.  You've done the same thing your entire life most likely, you just weren't an athlete so when your dad's friend gives you a job its not a violation of some inane rule.  The system is broken hating Weber is asinine.


April 4th, 2013 at 10:25 AM ^

The world would never move forward if rules weren't objected to sometimes and changes made.  It was once against the law to stand up to King George, or to slavery, or to Jim Crow. 

That doesn't meant the NCAA rules are anywhere near as important or bad as those examples -- maybe some people think the NCAA rules are okay -- but it is wrong to shut down all debate based on the argument that the rules are what they are.

I think the person you responded to made a good point about how many of the objecters to Webber are people who can enjoy similar benefits without repercussions.  Asking whether the law of perjury is inane is a red herring.  The occasional need to change laws doesn't mean that all laws or rules need to be changed, and it certainly doesn't mean that there should never be rules.


April 4th, 2013 at 11:36 AM ^

If you disagree with the rules, from slavery to smoking pot to the NCAA, there's stuff you can do to change that. Official ways.

Taking money, lying about receiving said money, and trying to pretend like you didn't take any money and that you never broke any rules, is not of those good ways to "show you disagree"


April 4th, 2013 at 9:27 PM ^

How does one protest the official way? Isnt the point of civil disobedience to break the law?  I dont get it.

Tell that to Rosa Parks.  She protested because her feet hurt and started a revolution that we all know was a very good thing.  Was it illegal for her?  Yes it was.  But we all HAILed her for breaking the law. 

Not exactly the same situation here but the point is valid.  Sometimes you have to break the rules to affect change.  Chris admitted to accepting money after he declared for the NBA.  

In court documents, Chris admitted taking $38,200 from Martin but it was never proven WHEN he took the money.  Chris has said before that he took the money AFTER he declared for the NBA.

So Chris is going to get penalized because he took money after he declared but was technically still a student at UM?  So he is getting crucified because he forgot to go withdraw from classes before he went to see Ed Martin?  


April 4th, 2013 at 8:22 AM ^

That's all anyone has to read of your comment to know you don't understand what happened.  It was cheating at a high level.  It was denied for years despite overwhelming proof and admissions by co-cheaters.  An apology is in order before Webber could EVER be accepted by the people who were affected by his celebration of self, and that's exactly what it was.  Compare Chris Webber to Taylor Lewan.  Doesn't take long to see the difference does it?


April 4th, 2013 at 9:15 AM ^

What?  Are you honestly serious?  Rules are rules whether you like them or not.  He voluntarily agreed to played college basketball and with that action, also agreed to abide by the rules almost every other NCAA athlete manages to follow.  What makes Chris Webber so goddamn special that he doesn't need to follow the rules?  Would you be saying the same goddamn thing if this was an Ohio State player?  And I'm sure Auburn and Chizik are obviously in the wrong for paying their players, but this is okay because he's a "Michigan Man".  No, screw him.  He cheated and got what he deserves.  I don't care if he is "re-accepted" by the university.  I get frustrated when Michigan fans think that the Fab Five are somehow special or unique. 

Guess what, every other major school in the country has had some sort of "epic" team, should they be allowed to avoid NCAA rules simply because they believe their services are not being valued correctly?  No. Play in Europe if you think you're so damn special and don't screw the university you pledged to play for by cheating.  Guess what, I would've rather Webber gone somewhere else to play than to treat the university like he did.  Maybe we wouldn't have gone as far, but those records would still be there.  Webber cost Michigan a DECADE of basketball.  Screw him.

Just because you think the speed limit is too low doesn't mean you have the right to drive as fast as you want.  By using public roads, you agree to abide by the rules of the road, no matter how stringent or asinine they might be.  This is a very similar situation. 


Sextus Empiricus

April 4th, 2013 at 9:31 AM ^

Herm, I totally agree with you. I don't want the fab five associated with UofM. But I attended many of the fab five games and have the memories and heart ache scars to show for it. The gist of the letter is valid. I wouldn't mind seeing Chris in the stands albeit not behind the bench. There are too many rules, so much water under the bridge and not enough peace. Let it be. Go Blue.


April 4th, 2013 at 9:46 AM ^

I mean if you really want to get into the "rules are rules no matter how much you dislike them" argument it was mlk that said an unjust law is no law at all.  I mean rosa parks never apologized for sitting on the front of the bus (not trying to equate rosa parks with webber, just talking about the rules are rules argument).  I never said what webber did was smart or right, I just said trying to vilify him and make him out to be some secretly bad person (which is more or less what the poster I replied to originally was doing) as a result of this is an over the top reaction, thats it.  

webber isn't special, it is just in these situations with 17 or 18 year old kids getting paid by boosters I never blame the players.  I don't think what the ohio guys did makes them bad people, I don't reggie bush is a bad person either.  

And lets be honest, the santions hurt the school for about 5 years, the 15 years after that were just bad hires.  Maryland was hurt with worse sanctions after the len bias tragedy but hired gary williams and won a national title 10 years after.


April 4th, 2013 at 10:08 AM ^

Oh boy.  Really comparing college athletes getting full rides to top universities for playing childrens games to the civil rights movement?  What's next, "if we don't stop the NCAA, the athletes will be hurt, just like with Hitler!"  People forget that there are, what, 1,000 athletes at Michigan?  Of which 95 are on revenue-positive teams?  The other 905 are being subsidized by the football and basketball teams (maybe hockey?)

I also don't understand the "they were only 18!" argument.  So is everyone else in the world at some point.  Am I excused from my actions anytime before the age of 22 just because I was a naive college student?  Absolutely not.  They are not children.  They know the difference between right and wrong.  How many times do you think it was reiterated to them "DON'T TAKE MONEY FROM PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY PEOPLE RUNNING GAMBLING RINGS.  AND IF YOU DID IN HIGH SCHOOL, QUIT IT NOW"?  Webber's parents were both teachers and he went to Country Day.  He was probably better off than 50% of the students at Michigan!  It's not exactly like HE couldn't buy a new pair of shoes (not that he would need to, since he can (likely) could get those for free because he played basketball!  He needs to pay for a date... the AD gives (now at least, or used to a few years ago) a pretty substantial weekend food budget and rent money (which is usually far more than you would need to cover rent down by the athletic facilities or Ypsi).  Hell, they could probably live in Zaragon with money to spare now.



April 4th, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

It's been almost two decades... don't hold your breath.  I would look upon Webber much more favorably if he acknowledged his wrongdoing.  He doesn't even have to say "Sorry" with a tear in his eye.  It would just be honorable of him to acknowledge that he did, in fact, do something wrong, no matter how minor he thinks that transgression to be or how he was entitled to extra benefits because he was deserved more than what UM was giving him.



April 4th, 2013 at 1:40 AM ^

Yes, let's forever ostracize an otherwise upstanding person who accepted a large sum of money when he was 18 years old. [EDIT: And going back to the eighth grade!] In case you haven't noticed, Michigan's last and current coaches are (1) the head coach at Harvard, and (2) the head of the NCAA MBB ethics coalition. I think we've learned some things.


April 4th, 2013 at 1:52 AM ^

I'm a pretty big NBA fan. The only people I've heard say bad things about Chris Webber are Michigan fans—a certain set of Michigan fans that feels personally betrayed by the Ed Martin scandal—and I'd love to see those fans give the man a chance to prove he's grown up and moved forward since he was 18 (or, if you'd prefer, in the decade since he lied to a grand jury). There's a whole lot of positive that could come out of the Fab Five reconciling with Michigan, and the only negative I see is bitter fans who don't want to be reminded of an era that the program has obviously moved beyond.

Bando Calrissian

April 4th, 2013 at 2:02 AM ^

And if you scroll up about a half page, you'll find the part of his Wiki entry about how he had to take a plea because he perjured himself before a grand jury about the money he took from Ed Martin.

No one is saying the guy isn't charitable. But it's a red herring to the discussion of his role in the Ed Martin scandal, his total lack of public remorse for his actions, and the ramifications it had for the basketball program.

This is a complex issue. For those of us who watched this program spiral into decline as a result of this scandal, it's about a little more than just Webber's skill on the basketball court.

At Michigan, we value character, honesty, and integrity. Chris Webber may have been a great basketball player (and none of us are denying he was), but off the court, his actions then and now in regards to his place in this scandal haven't lived up to those standards. 


April 4th, 2013 at 2:21 AM ^

Holy shit a young kid who took money and knew he was going to get in troulbe lied to try to avoid getting in trouble? That never happens, what a shitty person he must be.  He made some mistakes when he was younger.  Webber didn't kill the basketball program Ed martin did. Hating a child because he took money offered to him that made his life better is just absurd.  This sort of response is most likely why Weber refuses to apologize (this is purely conjecture), when people hate you, you tend to react defensively.  

And seriously people, Weber was not the first or last player to recieve "improper" benefits as a result of playing for Michigan.


April 4th, 2013 at 9:34 AM ^

First of all, I completely understand the stance against Chris Weber.  However, he did not violate any "professional" code of ethics.  He was an amateur.  

Much of my young adult life was spent watching those crappy post-Ed Martin scandal basketball teams.  It was brutal.  I appreciate the damage that was done to the program.  

I'm always curious as to why so much of the blame is placed at Weber's feet?  What about Bullock?  What about Maurice Taylor?  What about Robert Traylor?  What about Steve Fisher?  What about What about Brian Dutcher?  

I know this conversation is about Weber, but he always seems to take the brunt of the hard feelings that so many fans have about that whole situation.  

What I appreciated most about the letter was that it showed a level of compassion that I usually can't comprehend.  

I'm usually pretty unforgiving: if you know the consequences and fuck up, then fuck you.  Reading that letter though, helped me understand the benefit of forgiving and moving on.  How do we move on, if we don't forgive?  

I'm not suggesting we forget what happened (doomed to repeat, yada yada), but it's about time we move on.  


April 4th, 2013 at 7:12 PM ^

As a student you're not professional, but still have a code of conduct. You're never too young for morals.

But the answer to your question is easy...why Webber? Because no one ever asks or talks about any of those other guys coming back or being honored by the program. No professor wrote a "come back to the Final Four Steve Fisher" letter. And he actually won a title for us.


April 4th, 2013 at 9:53 AM ^

This sort of over the top reaction is why nobody can take you seriously.  I never said the school did not deserve to be punished, or that a rule was not broken.  What I said was that I blame ed martin and not chris webber.  In these situations I never blame the student athlete. I don't think reggie bush, or the ohio st players, or the auburn players are bad people with no ethical code or moral compass like you seem to do.  There is a difference between acknowledging wrongdoing and looking at the circumstances around it and just blindly hating.

I hope your job does not require any sort of logical thought, analytical analysis, or empathy, because you seem incapable of all it.


April 4th, 2013 at 10:24 AM ^

Well excuse me that I actually expect PEOPLE (he is not a "child" and was not one while playing, as you like to state so as to alleviate him from guilt, he was 18-22, and now he's 40 and still can't be an honest person) to have a moral compass.  How goddamn hard is it to NOT TAKE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS?  Seriously.  Just don't do it.  He wasn't poor, he didn't "need" the money, he felt entitled to it.  He won't appologize, he was completely complicit in taking money from a known criminal, and probably would've served jail time had Martin not died.  Congratulations Chris, you can throw a basketball through a hoop so you are excused of any of the ethics we regularly expect from the rest of the population.  How can you NOT blame Chris Webber?  Honestly.  He CHEATED.  Period.  That's it.  I'm not condeming him to burn in hell, but for God's sake, he hasn't even admitted he did anything wrong.  I'm not blindly hating, you're blindly excusing him for his own actions.  Maybe if he would man up for once and admit he did wrong, people would think more of him. 



April 4th, 2013 at 10:33 AM ^

What percentage of Michigan alums who win a big NCAA pool report the cash winnings to the IRS?

What percentage of Michigan alums cheated on a test in high school or college? Or got "help" on a paper?

That someone has done bad things does not, in and of itself, mean that they are bad people.  If Michigan refused to allow back any alum who did wrongs that were akin to Webber's, reunions would be lonely affairs.  


April 4th, 2013 at 11:39 AM ^

Probably a bunch cheated.  And if they were caught, they were likely kicked out of school and asked to not come back.  Probably hurting their lives as a whole much more than Webber's was.  He cheated, he got caught, he won't accept the consequences or acknowledge any wrongdoing. 

In the court system, prisoners are often helped in their parole efforts by acknowledging their mistakes and admitting guilt.  I'd like to see the same from Chris.



April 4th, 2013 at 11:52 AM ^

"That someone has done bad things does not, in and of itself, mean that they are bad people."


In the end, we are all nothing more than the sum of our actions... or as Aristotle put it -



"We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions."


April 4th, 2013 at 11:36 AM ^

If a booster thinks you are a really intelligent engineering student and would do great things as a u of m alum and says I will give you money to attend the university of michigan is that a violation of moral integrity? There is nothing technically wrong about it but it is the exact same situation and I would never call a kid who took that money someone who lacked moral integrity.  Who excused Webber? He broke a rule and as a result has been denied contact to the school that according to the rest of the fab five he actually really does care about.  But to vilify, refuse to ever forgive and say he has no moral integrity is such an over the top response I have to believe you don't actually believe it because who can have that much hate in them over a person they have never met nor truly understand what he went through.  Furthermore, I believe that responses such as yours are the reason he has never apologized, because you attack him as a person he is defensive and does not want to make you happy, it may be petty, but news flash so are you.


April 4th, 2013 at 2:28 AM ^

This is a complex issue. For those of us who watched this program spiral into decline as a result of this scandal, it's about a little more than just Webber's skill on the basketball court.

In fairness, Webber didn't force Tom Goss to hire Brian Ellerbe, Webber didn't force Bill Martin to replace Ellerbe with Tommy Amaker, and Webber didn't force Goss or Martin to drag their feet on badly needed facilities upgrades while the rest of the conference was busy cutting ribbons on new arenas and practice facilities. Webber definitely isn't blameless, but you can't blame the prolonged period of mediocrity solely on Webber and the scandal. Under Goss and Martin, our AD practically ignored the basketball program for nearly ten years.


April 4th, 2013 at 9:39 AM ^

How is making bad hires a result of what Chris Weber did?  

The Ed Martin scandal did not leave us with no choice but to hire Brian Ellerbe, so hiring Ellerbe was not a result of the scandal.  

Hiring Brian Ellerbe was the result of a bad decision, nothing more.  

If we had hired better coaches at that time, we could have been cutting ribbons on new basketball complexes much sooner than we did.  

Bando Calrissian

April 4th, 2013 at 11:34 AM ^

Brian Ellerbe was hired purely because he was the only guy left standing on the basketball staff in October of '97. Fisher and co. were let go for a reason, and that reason was the brewing scandal. The other guys followed Fisher, but Ellerbe had no reason to. He had been on campus for a matter of weeks. He had no connections to Fisher before that time, and had no connections to the scandal. He'd been a head coach before, and by every indication seemed to be a stand-up guy. 

So, yes, the Ed Martin scandal had a direct impact on the decision to hire Brian Ellerbe as the interim basketball coach after Fisher was let go. Hindsight is 20/20. At the moment the hire was made, and through that season (which ended in a B10 tournament championship), it wasn't seen as a bad decision. Sure, the timing put us between a rock and a hard place, but that was what it was. As the years went on, it became evident we hitched our wagon to the wrong horse, but that doesn't mean we need to reinvent why he got the job in the first place.


April 4th, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

So you're saying because Ellerbe was there that he had to be hired?  We had limited options because of the situation.  That doesn't mean that we could have pursued other options.  

The AD could have made him the interim coach for a year, while conducting a thorough search for a permanent replacement.  

Ellerbe's hiring was not a result of the scandal.  It was the result of a bad decision.  


April 4th, 2013 at 11:15 AM ^

Webber had a part in it, but a small one. Bad coaching and poor facilities led to our mediocrity. However, Webber and the Fab Five put M basketball on the map. Without those guys, we were a school that made a great tourney run that one time.

I can't tell you how many times I meet people who find out I'm a Michigan grad/fan and their first response is, "I remember watching the Fab Five, those guys were awesome." They don't bring up the scandal. They bring up their awesomeness. The positive mark Webber and the Fab Five left on the program is bigger than the negative one. The sanctions are done, we're past them. But the Fab Five legend is still alive and well. And the reality is that without Webber, there would have been no banners to bring down.

Bando Calrissian

April 4th, 2013 at 11:40 AM ^

Michigan wasn't on the map already?

This was a program that won an NCAA championship two years before. That was coming off a decade where it won two Big 10 championships. Who had been to Final Fours in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. 

To imply there was no national profile for Michigan Basketball before the Fab Five is simple revisionism. Did the profile grow after '91? Absolutely. But Michigan was already prominently on the map when the Fab Five got to campus.


April 4th, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

"But the Fab Five legend is still alive and well."  Meh.  Most college basketball player's weren't even born yet when they played.  While I'm sure UNC still points to Jordan, NC State still talks about Valvano, and Michigan brings up the Fab Five to recruits, I don't think they would be a huge factor anymore.  Without the ESPN documentary from a year ago, I don't think even MGoBloggers would care as much about the Fab Five.  That did help put them back in people's minds, I'll agree.  But we have to remember it's been 20 years.  That is a long time.  Anyways, Michigan basketball won a NC before the Fab Five, not during their tenure.  Hell, for all we know, had the Fab Five not come to UM, there might have been another championship during the down years (though it is a small possibility).



April 4th, 2013 at 2:40 AM ^

This is all true (and I've made this argument before) - but his/his fathers' actions caused two incredibly memorable Final Four appearances to be wiped off the record.  That alone was a gut punch.  It kills me whenever the TV guys start to reminisce about the Fab Five, only to inevitably add "but those Final Fours were vacated."