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.

Comments

SeattleWolverine

April 4th, 2013 at 10:45 AM ^

Some of what you say is true, like the administrative complacency regarding facilities. But a lot of the other decisions can be traced in part to Webber's (and others') actions. Ellerbe was hired to be an assistant and was promoted because the independent report by the law firm on the scandal came down in October 1997 and left no choice but to fire Fisher immediately. With practice about to start, no coaches on the market due to the timing, Dutcher being tainted etc there was no one to hire except Ellerbe at that point as he had not been around for any of the chicanery. Then Ellerbe actually had a good year, earning a #3 seed in the tourney and winning the BTT and with probable sanctions on the way we were in no position to go get a name coach. We made the wrong but seemingly sensible at the time decision to keep him and plow through the sanctions and get to the other side. No one understood then that it would not be resolved for many years.

As far as Amaker, certainly Bill Martin screwed that up as Pitino claims that he would have gone to M. But one of the primary reasons that Amaker was hired was because he had that squeaky clean Duke image and with the case still dragging along the University wanted to appear to have changed. Moreover the scandal was still hanging over the program and limiting the pool of candidates.

 

Facilities - I mostly agree that this is on the administration. But don't think that the scandal also didn't turn off some of the big money people who help get facilities paid for.

 

You can't blame Webber directly for a lot of MIchigan basketball's problems for the decade from 97 to about 07. But a lot of the choices that other people made were influenced and altered by both the sanctions, the sense of impending doom before the sanctions and the complications that arose because of the choices of Webber, T(r)aylor, and Bullock. Their actions set in motion the chain of effects that led to a lot of shitty basketball.

Don't get me wrong, I loved going to games during the Fab 5 era and the two tourney runs were great. In the big picture, violating amateurism rules is pretty small potatoes. Forgive that and move on and I am happy to reconcile with Webber. But I do still believe that a lot of the bad basketball grew out of Webber's choices and the long lasting consequences they resulted in.

Tucker_Malcolm

April 4th, 2013 at 2:48 AM ^

"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."

 

You must not have been watching very closely because it's completely facetious to say that our program declined because of Weber. Our program declined because of our Atheltic department's refusal to invest in its facilities and hire competent coaches. I mean, Ellerbe won a Big ten tournament during the beginning of his term and thereafter gave us terrible seasons. This was even BEFORE we had any sanctions whatsoever.  And even then, the only meaningful sanction that we had imposed on us was a grand total of 1 scholarship reduction a year. Stop using false arguments to support your bias against the fab five

BluByYou

April 4th, 2013 at 9:23 AM ^

Ellerbe was hired because Fisher was fired.  Are you saying that without the scandal, we would still have had Ellerbe, Amaker, poor recruiting, poor attendance and deteriorating facilities?  Who knows, without the scandal, we might be calling the refurbished Crisler Arena "The house that Chris built."  However, predictions are hard, especially about the past.

BluByYou

April 4th, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

that without the scandal, we would likely have not had poor coaches & poor attendance.  Our future, BB-wise would likely have been sky high, attendance would have been much better, better tv revenue, etc. which should have led to an upgrade of facilites.  Anyway, I like how things are now, it just should not have taken 20 years.

inthebluelot

April 4th, 2013 at 8:46 AM ^

You value character, you don't and can't speak for what Michigan values. Chris Webber was the least significant figure in the Ed Martin scandal. There were dozens who had to be complicit or at least willing to keep their mouths shut because Michigan was winning basketball games. There are individuals who were never punished to the extent Webber was, yet your blame rests squarely on his shoulders. Everyone deserves a homecoming regardless of the past if they are willing to make amends. His ban from the university is up soon, and if he does take steps to repair this situation, I believe he should be allowed to do so. Michigan values character... we shall see.

SC Wolverine

April 4th, 2013 at 11:04 AM ^

It really is great that the UM community stands up for character, honesty and integrity.  The character of what is going on in football and basketball programs is what really makes things special as we return to our former glory.  But without grace, all of these things just become ugly and self-righteous.  Am I happy about C Webb and the selfish actions he took and which, if I am not mistaken, he has never apologized for?  No, I am not.  But if he was a family member I would still invite him for Thanksgiving dinner.  I would still pray for him and try to encourage him.  I can also have sympathy on what it was like for him at the time.  I don't justify what he did at all, but I can extend some grace in my attitude towards him.

Furthermore, unless I am mistaken, alot of the ethics problems at UM basketball took place in the years after the Fab Five, but everything gets lumped onto the Fab Five.  Not only are we being ungracious towards them, then, we are being substantially unfair.

MGoBrewMom

April 4th, 2013 at 2:23 AM ^

When he was 18. What is he now? Closing on 40? He has never shown any remorse to forgive. This is not all on those of us still pissed about it.

It's simple, first the person who "made the mistake" says "I was wrong". Then people (who want to) can say "yes you were. Thanks for acknowledging that. We have missed you."

naked cerebellum

April 4th, 2013 at 4:28 AM ^

Webber was quite close to being convicted of perjury if not for the death of Ed Martin. The perjury was committed well after he was 18-years-old. It's ridiculous to excuse something like that just because he was a basketball star, unless you were unaware of it. That's not bitterness; that's a felony.

inthebluelot

April 4th, 2013 at 8:51 AM ^

and appreciated for what he had done for him and other young men. He had a lot more than just himself to protect. He's also not the first person to lie to a jury, I'm quite certain it happens daily. Doesn't make it tight, but also doesn't mean he can't or hadn't learned a lesson. His ban is not yet lifted, let's wait and see what he does after it is lifted before we make final judgement. That's the way courts, which you are so quick to use as your justification here, work.

MGoBrewMom

April 4th, 2013 at 2:05 AM ^

How can someone be forgiven for something they just seem to ignore. I want to love him and have him be part of the University... But for me (and others on the "ostracizing" side), maybe an ounce of acceptance on his part, for the damage his actions (yes, as a young man) caused Michigan would be a welcomed start.

While Michigan has learned things, rebuilt a successful program, and is doing so with integrity; this all has happened independently of Chris Webber.

I don't see it as ostracizing really. I'm just not willing to put on blinders and pretend we're all good...when he hasn't owned his mistakes. So maybe in his mind, he didn't make a mistake? Or...maybe he is just waiting to do so until the ban is over?? That's what I'm hoping for.

As for the letter, it's compelling and well stated. I am really glad to have read it, and will be curious to see what comes of it.

jmblue

April 4th, 2013 at 2:23 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!]

And it may in fact have been his father who took most of the money, not him. (If so, that might explain why people who saw the Fab Five around campus didn't think any of them had a lot of money, as opposed to the Traylor/Taylor/Bullock trio, who flaunted it.)

I do think, though, that he needs to show some level of remorse for what happened.  It's not that he took money 20+ years ago that's the issue to a lot of people, but that he's been defiant about having done anything improper.  I understand why he felt exploited - his jersey certainly was a big seller those two years - but the rules are what they are, and by breaking them he set his program back a long way.

 

 

BigJohn

April 4th, 2013 at 6:50 AM ^

I would love to see the Fab Five show up in the ATL together, but I can't imagine it happening. For me and most who watched those teams they revolutionized the college game, much like Larry and Magic did for the NBA. I knew it was something special and I was only 15. I actually wore my CWeb jersey out in public last year for a fan day at work, I got some crazy looks

maizeonblueaction

April 4th, 2013 at 1:31 AM ^

but there are certain phrases that I hear a lot, and have said to myself a lot, but they still carry a great deal of meaning to me. For me, it's that there are precious few chances to love and be loved in return in this lifetime, and we should not pass up on any of them if we can help it.

MGoBrewMom

April 4th, 2013 at 1:46 AM ^

I have mixed feelings... On one hand it sounds like a good path towards potentially mending things, and I'm guessing (??) it would be huge to the team. But on the other hand, would it be distracting, or take away anything from this team? I would hate for that to be the case. This team deserves the full credit and attention. But--if it really would matter to them, I would not feel critical.

I loved CWebb, and defended him, as i thought he was a good kid and so good for the University(prior to Martin). Now, I remain angry and unforgiving of his inability to be accountable. For me, it's not even about what he did, but his lack of accountability. Regardless, I remain hopeful that a time will come that he will own it, and just apologize for how it hurt Michigan. They are such a great part of our history, if only.....

So, for this weekend, we will see if it happens. meanwhile--GO BLUE!!

MichiganManOf1961

April 4th, 2013 at 9:29 AM ^

This is just me talking out of my ass, but I don't really like it when a large portion of certain teams are guided into certain classes... that aren't exactly Econ 101 or Calculus.  Just reminds me too much of the UNC type of scandals that I'd like to avoid.  I'm sure there is nothing amiss, but it wouldn't exactly smell right to an outside observer.  Granted, there are "athete classes" at every school, but it'd be nice to avoid. 

I'm also not a fan of the "athletes pick classes before anyone else on campus" rule.  Yes, I understand they have schedules they have to work around.  But there are plenty of other students working part/full time jobs, commuting to school, presiding over major organizations, playing club sports, etc.  Just frustrating to walk into one of those really easy second-semester senior-year classes and see a bunch of freshman athletes when you've had to wait 4 years to get a chance to take a joke class.

~Herm

SoullessHack

April 4th, 2013 at 2:17 AM ^

... that letter was downright creepy.  I can almost guarantee you that it's disconcertingly similar to fanmail Webber received when he was at the height of his playing days.  Honestly, how many variations of the following letter do you think Chris Webber has received:

 

Dear Chris Webber,

 

I've loved you for decades.  No one undestands you the way I do, because I also went through (RANDOM EXPERIENCE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING).  Look at how I altered my appearance to look more like you!  Please pay attention to me.

 

Sincerely,

 

Fan Who Spends Way Too Much Time Thinking About You And Has Clearly Lost Perspective

 

That this guy is an Associate Professor is only slightly less embarrassing for the University than the Ed Martin scandal.

michgoblue

April 4th, 2013 at 7:24 AM ^

I am actually of the mind that C-Web should be welcomed back into the Michigan family in some manner. The guy screwed up when he was a kid, did some stupid things a few years later to cover it up, and ultimately paid the price in reputation, estrangement from the university and overall embarrassment. But, it's time to move on and begin to mend the fences.

All of that said, I also found the letter creepy, especially the part where Yago started discussion what was obvious a very personal issue for him and then comparing it to what CW was going through.

MGoRossGrad

April 4th, 2013 at 2:16 AM ^

Yeah a lot of mixed feelings from me too.

On the one hand, this would be a step in the right direction to support the team, and like the article says, Chris shouldn't feel like everyone at Michigan hates him and never wants to see him again.  I think even people who aren't on his side would like to see him come forward, make amends, and be on better terms with the program, even if it is just a small gesture.  Not to mention, like was said, this is about the team and these kids now, and it would be huge to see him and the rest of the Fab Five there to support Mitch, Nik, GRIII, Spike, and Caris and the rest of the team.

On the other hand, that is a best-case scenario and the media would never let it go down like that.  The second he is there at the game, reporters want to know his thoughts on the team and how they compare to his time and if he is ready to make amends, and how hard it is been for him to be distanced from the team.  It would be an ultimate distraction and would confirm probably why Chris hasn't come forward since then:  the media is never going to leave him alone if the cameras see him and Michigan together again, and that's not what his return in Atlanta would be about. 

triangle_M

April 4th, 2013 at 2:25 AM ^

The discussion of accountability is a little absurd. He was a young man thrust into the spotlight and made a few mistakes.  He was too young to understand the damage that he did to the team, and that the university would do to itself to show contrition.  He's already forgiven by me, not that he ever needed to be.  

The program is peaking, I don't know why we can't just enjoy it.  If Webber wants to show up to the game I think that would be really good for him but the team is so wonderful right now I don't care what Webber does.  Look at them play -- the joy on their faces in the tournament -- and tell me this Michigan team is haunted by ghosts.  

triangle_M

April 4th, 2013 at 10:05 AM ^

To think that Webber still needs our come-to-Jesus "tough love" is comical.   He's been punished for 20 years now by the university and from Michigan fans.   I don't see what is gained by continuing to punish him.  If what's gained is your sense of integrity than I guess you should try to convince the university to tack on another 20 with an option to suspend the rest of the sentence if he apologizes. 

Chris is a member of the Michigan family and yes sometimes you have to forgive family before they realize they made a mistake or can even begin to deal with it.  Sometimes people need tough love, sometimes people just need love.  It takes wisdom to know when to use each but I tend to go with the later.    

TruBluMich

April 4th, 2013 at 2:28 AM ^

OK, thats a very well written letter.  My question is, Webber can have NO contact with the players or coaches, so how is that going to be motivational?  The current players MAY see him in a stadium with 70k fans?

JamieH

April 4th, 2013 at 4:41 AM ^

The problem I have with permanently chastising Chris Webber is that a big chunk of elite college basketball players in his era (and most likely now too for that matter) probably took improper cash.  Did they all take as much as he did?  Maybe not.  But pretending that most players were 100% clean is also a joke too. 

The reason Webber ended up getting Michigan poleaxed is that he took money from a guy who got run by the Feds, and that meant they were able to use subpeona power.  Usually the NCAA can't compel anyone to actually tell the truth about any of this stuff, so everyone just lies about it to CYA.  But once the Feds were involved, then they could subpeona people and compel them to testify, threatening them with perjury and jail time if they lied.

So in the end, yeah, what Webber did was wrong.  But I bet he met tons of guys in the NBA that also took money in college that no one even knows about.   That has to be hard to stomach for him.  It doesn't excuse what he did, but it probably explains a lot of why the whole situation pisses him off so much.  Everyone acts like he is some sort of pariah, when the truth is, he is just one of many MANY guys who took illicit cash while playing college ball.

So I don't know how you deal with him at Michigan.  You can't really celebrate the Fab 5 without pretending the scandal didn't happen.  But I don't think Michigan wants to do that.  So what do you do?

 

MichiganManOf1961

April 4th, 2013 at 9:37 AM ^

So, a ton of people speed / use illegal drugs / drink and drive / abuse their significant others / etc.  Does that make it a valid excuse when you're caught?  Absolutely not.  Do you think in a few years we'd be packing Auburn fans on the back and saying "It's ok, you guys should take Cam Newton back, I'm sure a lot of other players were being paid too.  Don't worry, we're not judging you."  Hell no.  Everytime there is a sniff of a scandal in the SEC, MGoBlog acts like the SEC personally spit in their mother's face.  But if it's Webber... well, he was young, so I can understand it.  Bullshit.  Have some more integrity and stop being two-faced about the cheating that occurs in college sports.  Yes it happens,we all know that. but does it make it right? No.

(Sorry not yelling at you.  Excuse me if it seemed like it.  Just chastising your point about the "tons of players do it".)

~Herm

neoavatara

April 4th, 2013 at 5:49 AM ^

I have said this before, but I think it bares repeating. 

I entered Michigan in the fall of 1991 like Webber and the Fab Five.  I grew up in Southfield, MI, and had a lot of friends at Country Day when Webber was there....so we knew each other.  I would not say we would be called friends, but definitely acquaintenances.  And I had met Jalen Rose before I even knew he was going to Michigan.

We had common friends in Ann Arbor as well, and I had been to several parties with members of the Fab 5.  

When Webber was there, he lived the life of a poor student. I know now he took money while there, but he was not driving around in a Cadillac or throwing money around.  That simply was not the reality. 

What this letter says, and what many of us that were around at that time, is NOT to excuse what Webber did.  He broke the rules, no question.  But in hindsight, look at his punishment, and then look at others that have done similar things.  Did Webber really commit a crime greater than Reggie Bush, Cam Newton, and some of these others?  And did they ever suffer as much from this as he has?

So to say that Webber should not be 'punished' is silly.  He has been punished.  In fact, I would argue he and the University of Michigan were punished far more than equivalent offenses elsewhere. 

The question really is, can we at some point forgive?  20 years have gone by.  TWENTY YEARS.  Look at the people in society we have forgiven.  This week, there was news that a former terrorist partially responsible for the deaths of three men in the 1960s was given a prestigious professorship at Columbia University.  We can forgive murder but not this?

We need to move on.  Webber should apologize for what he did, but UM should accept his apology and bring him back into the fold.  That is the only way this episode ever ends, and the circle is complete. 

buddhafrog

April 4th, 2013 at 6:06 AM ^

I agree with the letter.

I want Weber back in the Michigan community.

But for all those that are saying people with my opinion feel this way are doing so because he was good at basketball - complete bullshit!

You know how much Mitch McGary is loved here right now?  His personality, his team play, how much he loves Michigan and basketball and his team?  That was Weber, that was the Fab Five. I want the mending to begin not because of how good he was at basketball, but because of how good he was.  I've met him a few times, he helped out with St. Louis Center's disabled youth - he was incredibly generous, giving, and authentic.  And he loved playing, and loved the university.

Those are the reasons I want the mending to begin.  Not because he was good at basketball.

All arguements are fair game, imo, but not this one.

OMG Shirtless

April 4th, 2013 at 6:50 AM ^

There's a part of me that really can't wait to see two things happen with Michigan athletics.  Welcoming back Chris Webber and advertising in Michigan Stadium.  

I just want to see Bando have a complete meltdown.  He's essentially threatened to turn in his degree if either of these happen and it's starting to look like will both probably happen in his lifetime.  

Swayze Howell Sheen

April 4th, 2013 at 7:02 AM ^

Good letter.

One thing that's a little weird is that the author has been at the University for 20 or so years and is still only an associate professor (promotion to full in a normal case would happen after 12 or so years).

The picture is great too - the players must be enjoying life on campus this week. It is uniquely cool about making the final four that you get to bask an entire week in the media spotlight (well, perhaps the weeks before the superbowl are similar). I hope all of the guys are enjoying it.

Finally, I was at the 1993 final four, and saw the timeout live. It was brutal when the fans finally figured out what was going on. This time I think I will watch from home, and perhaps our luck will change - yes, I have that kind of power.