OT - Pony Excess, Welcoming back those who took money, and players as victims

Submitted by gobluesasquatch on December 12th, 2010 at 12:59 AM

After the Heisman presentation, I thought I'd check out Pony Excess, because I remember the announcement by the NCAA placing SMU under the Repeat Violations punishment, otherwise known as the Death Penalty. I remember when the SWC was a good football conference. And I remember when Houston rolled up 95 points against a hapless SMU squad in their first year back. 

Despite ESPN's best efforts to make some of the people look like innocent victims, I had very little sympathy for anyone involved, perhaps maybe the kids at SMU who stuck with the program during the suspended seasons (those who didn't get paid) and those joined after the program restarted. (Still think it was absolutely classless what Houston did to them in 89 - but hey, they got there sanctions a few years later). 

What surprised me was SMU's decision to recently begin to welcome back all their former players, particularly those from the era of widespread paying of players. Despite the NCAA exposing the reality that the school knew what was going on, the show did it's best to try and make it seem like the only villains were the boosters. Yet a large number of players took money, and continued to take money after the first and second sanctions!

Eric Dickerson wouldn't go on record as to what SMU had to do that got him to sign (though an assistant coach claimed they paid off the gold trans am), and yet here was the university openly contacting him and inviting him back years later! It seemed as if the past was just forgotten, and athletes, many of whom admitted they were getting paid were now suddenly back as a part of the family. Worse yet, many of them seemed upset that they'd been kept a way from the program for so long. There seemed to be no remorse for what they'd done. In some cases only frustration that other schools weren't penalized the same way. 

I don't feel sorry for the student athletes who KNEW the rules (and they know the rules) and took money, went to SMU and continued to take money even as the school was put on probation.

As it applies to Michigan, it reminded me that those implicated with Ed Martin should remain away from the progam. I'm glad that Webber, Taylor, Traylor and Bullock are not part of the program. They knew what they were doing, they did it anyway, and in Webber's case, he's never admitted he broke the rules and what he did was wrong (at least in the eyes of the NCAA). There are consequences and I'm glad Michigan continues to exhibit some consistency here.

Curious to see what others thought who watched Pony Excess. 



December 12th, 2010 at 1:08 AM ^

Michigan is literally not allowed to affiliate itself with C-Webb for (I believe) two more years.  When that ban is lifted, however, I think you'll ultimately see him recognized, and the entire Fab Five recognized in some way (like it or not).

EDIT: Point being, we can't know whether we're exhibiting "consistency" or whatnot because there's no choice involved in the matter (yet).


December 12th, 2010 at 5:33 AM ^

I really, really hope the Fab Five is honored at a game after we have a clean bill of health with Webber. It would be awesome.

Those are some of my favorite memories not just of Michigan basketball or Michigan athletics, but as a sports fan. They are true legends for a lot of RIGHT reasons and we shouldn't be so sanctimonious to not be proud of that.

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 7:36 PM ^

True legends don't get paid to play amateur athletics.  And while Webber was the only one of the five proven to be on the take, that's 20% more of the Fab Five than there should have been.  And true legends don't put their self-inflated "legacy" above the University of Michigan.  

Listen, I went to Fab Five games. They were fun.  It was a fun group to watch, and it was a fun thing to be a part of, even as a kid.  But Webber is and should be persona non grata, and the second they haul him out on the court at Crisler will be the day a lot of people lose faith in the integrity of our University.  It wasn't worth it, and it won't be worth it to "honor" someone who disgraced our University with both his actions and his complete and total lack of remorse after the fact.

Buzz Your Girlfriend

December 12th, 2010 at 3:29 AM ^

I posted this as soon as I heard it in the other thread. Literally every single piece of audio they played at the end was in regards to a SERIOUS major violation (it's sad that we now have to make that distinciton between serious and nonserious major violations). We were even one of the only to be shout out as the "Wolverines" instead of just visually.


December 12th, 2010 at 11:39 AM ^

Made me wonder what violations they've been hit with. And if it's just about showing big time athletics - how do you not show tOSU? What about Notre Dame. The booster that paid players there - and Lou Holtz. He might seem like a nice, incoherent grandfather type - but you know he has dirty having been at Arkansas. Or Washington and it's sanctions that forced out Don James.
<br>I hate ESPN. Why do continue to go back?


December 12th, 2010 at 9:31 AM ^

Carr was seen being doused with Gatorade when they were rolling the credits, which was an indictment to our 1997 national championship team. A little creative license used there.

I have said over and over on this blog that the first initial in ESPN stands for entertainment, which comes before sports. When you entertain you don't always have to be guided by facts.


December 12th, 2010 at 1:18 AM ^

Craig James works for ESPN.

Craig James was a player at SMU, and one of the major culprits of the scandal.

ESPN airs a film about the scandal.

The film pains players as victims.


Hmmmm, I wonder how that works out...


December 12th, 2010 at 2:45 AM ^

Craig James is a terrible announcer who got Mike Leach fired.  His kid may or may not be good at football.

I have my doubts about James too, but nobody has ever accused him of ever taking money.  It could be an ESPN KONSPRIACY!  Or it could be that he truly didn't take the money.  I feel as though we would have heard about it by now if he had taken money,

Buzz Your Girlfriend

December 12th, 2010 at 3:36 AM ^

Plus, going to SMU because his girlfriend (now wife) was there seems to be pretty legit for him picking SMU in the first place. However, I think if you are a star 18-19 year old kid and you have knowledge of other players receiving money you're going to want your cut and I'm sure they obliged.


December 12th, 2010 at 4:05 AM ^

Eric Dickerson won't even admit he took anything, and he was tooling around in a gold car the coaches admit helping pay for. The whole segment was on how tight lipped everyone was when things got "official". But people down in and around Dallas at the time regularly talked about him getting paid. Who's going to bother to investigate which players did or did not take stuff in that cesspool? The fact is, he knowingly jumped into the muck.


December 12th, 2010 at 4:15 AM ^

that while everyone around him was on the take, Craig James was pure as snow.  I don't care if he had a girlfriend that was going to SMU or not.

Remember, the show said that there were not just one-time bribes, there was on ongoing PAYROLL.  When Craig James got to SMU and was a star, it's hard to see him not getting a piece of that action.

Craig James should have recused himself from being  interviewed because of his ESPN ties.  Plus, having your quotes interspersed with those of numerous shady characters makes you look just like one of them.

Just like the on the "U", I can't believe that all of these people are willing go on a national broadcast and admit with such cavalier smugness how they were part of serious unethical violations. 

It is a stain on them in the grown up world, which they will eventually have to join when their jock days are over. 


December 12th, 2010 at 1:14 AM ^

I liked how they ended it on the positive of the current situation under June Jones.  As someone who wasn't alive at the time, it makes them a feel-good story.

steve sharik

December 12th, 2010 at 1:21 AM ^

To show this right after Cam Newton, a player accused of taking money, won the Heisman.  And then to show a lot of Reggie Bush, who had to give back his Heisman b/c he took money, at the end of it was just too much.

ESPN is becoming a giant outfit of those Musberger was referring to when he talked about media members realizing they could become famous by breaking the big story.

That, couple with his "when the local media turns its guns on you, you're finished," made me say, "Fuckin' Rosenberg," out loud.


December 12th, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

If you ever get the chance, try and watch a Sky Sports Newscast from the UK.  It is nothing but straight up sports.  The anchors do not try to attract attention to themselves and that is how it is suppose to be.  ESPN and Sportscenter has gone downhill in the past 10-15 years.  Back in the day, I could watch Sportscenter all day long but now it is pretty much torture (I would rather get waterboarded than to watch a full episode of Sportscenter L.A.).


December 12th, 2010 at 1:32 AM ^

is absolute scum and i had no respect for him after he pretty much got mike leach fired from texas tech.  i wasn't alive when this happened so i had no idea he was wrapped up in all this but now i have even less respect for him...

that being said i'm excited to see what june jones can do at smu, i wish him the best of luck


December 12th, 2010 at 2:13 PM ^

In the film they said he went there because of girlfriend but he got paid like everyone else.


He worked for the booster who set up slush fund during the summer in the guy's real estate office and took money like the rest of them.  That booster became his agent when he went pro.

And what he did to Leach was a disgrace.


December 12th, 2010 at 1:37 AM ^

The whole piece while it did give a time line about what happened, completely glossed over the major points. I don't mean which players did or did not receive money. The issues which were really covered up was who were the boosters giving the money; who were the administrators and board members (the equivalent of board members) who were involved and aware of things and why none of these people were ousted and permanently banned from having anything to do with SMU athletics. The AD, head coach and underling who amazingly was sending cash to families in official SMU envelopes were forced out but they were just the convenient scape goats. The real money people never were publically identified and forced out.

It comes back to the fundamental hypocrisy of big money college sports; mostly football and basketball and to a much lesser degree baseball. The best players are coming to D1 schools with football traditions in hopes of developing their athletic skills and progressing to the professional leagues. Those of you who saw the documentary will note that when Forrest Gregg took over the program after it had been killed, SMU initially vowed only to accept players who could credibly graduate - and they were left with a team which could possibly give Odessa Permian (Texas high school powerhouse) a game but which were literally heads shorter and 3 seconds slower in the forty (a quote from the film) - in other words kids who had no pro potential - smart kids, good kids, kids who had played high school ball, but hardly anyone who was D1 caliber.

We should acknowledge what is no secret to the kids and most adults whose heads are not caught in some 1920's-1950's era dream land of college sports - the top kids in the big money sports are coming to any school with an athletic tradition to get better and hope to develop as a future professional. This is not about paying them but it is about telling it like it really is - it is the only field which we grant "scholarships" yet don't let the scholar to actually actively study that field year round. No one in a theatre, drama, music or art school is prohibited from working on their talent year round and getting professional advice, and the people in those fields have equally short and tough lives as athletes with few ever making big money. End the hypocrisy. If a kid is a D1 caliber athlete with true pro potential give him/her a scholarship but train year round, and really develop that talent and really educate them about their area of interest.

After exposing the fact that the president, AD, head coach and members of the equivalent of the regents were all complicit, the film glosses over why no further investigation was conducted. It did show students on campus wanted to know who were the boosters and who were complicit, but this was all left unanswered. The whole latter third was the "feel good" story of how June Jones was turning around the program - presumably with players who were competitive; that is with little hopes of graduating from SMU but were D1 caliber. More detail was given about how the death penalty helped to speed the demise of the old Southwest Conference than who were really the money people behind the scenes. Finally it ended on the old "everyone was doing it we just got caught and punished too harshly" theme.


December 12th, 2010 at 1:49 AM ^

think it was that good.  I suppose if you weren't old enough, or not yet born this was probably a very imformative and interesting piece, but I thought it fell short of really telling the story of what happened to SMU and why.

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 1:53 AM ^

I take a rather extreme viewpoint on this, and I know there's a lot of people who long for the entire Fab 5 to be center court at Crisler again...

But it really grinds my gears to think that Chris Webber could ever expect to be accepted back at Michigan with open arms.  Period.  I'm sorry, as far as I'm concerned, Webber, Bullock, Traylor, and Taylor have no right to be involved or honored in any way by the University of Michigan in any capacity at any time.  

The banners are (rightfully) gone.  They're not coming back.  Webber may have had a point when he complained about the University making money off of him, but at the end of the day, he broke the rules he agreed to abide by when he accepted a scholarship, and there's no reason why we should ever condone what his actions (and the future players who continued under his example with Ed Martin) did to our basketball program.  

No remorse, no shame, and subsequently, not missed.  And there's 616,000 reasons to justify it.


December 12th, 2010 at 2:58 AM ^


But seriously, your comments reflect the difference in culture between Michigan and the Texas schools of past.  I don't think there's ever, EVER been a period at Michigan where we agree to sell our souls (and pay for players), so to speak, in exchange for a great team.  It has always come from the coaches - from Yost, to Fritz, to Bump, to Bo, to Mo, to Carr, and now to RichRod - they've all held themselves to the highest standard,  I would say that, as a fanbase, we would rather have an honest 3-9 team, filled with hard-working student athletes, than paying for a 12-0 team, filled with Craig Jameses, Cam Newtons, and the like.


May it always be that way.


December 12th, 2010 at 5:52 AM ^

Webber and the Fab Five will always be have its place in the identity and brand of Michigan athletics. Yes, because of Webber taking money, that is not all positive. But a lot of it is. Nationally, I would say over time the payoff has become a footnote on the legacy. They are largely seen as being a revolutionary force in a great era of college basketball.

I wouldn't lump Webber in with the other guys because I don't really care if Bullocks, Taylor and Traylor are never welcomed back. They don't carry any real cache in the annals of Michigan athletics. But Ann Arbor will never forget Webber and his teammates, for reasons both good and bad. To try and just pretend he never played here is stupid.




December 12th, 2010 at 9:46 AM ^

What a totally insulated view. I'd expect nothing else from you.

Ask NBA players of the right age about the Fab Five and their eyes will light up like a pinball machine. They represented a remarkable time period. The payoffs don't overwhelm their legacy. Perhaps to snobs like you it does, but not to most.


December 12th, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

I'm pretty sure payoffs overwhelm the legacy of the Pony Express and Reggie Bush and Miami in the 1980's and countless other teams in the eyes of you and most other people on this blog.  Realizing cheating isn't okay just because it was done by a really good team at the school you like doesn't make Bando a snob.  It simply means he realizes some things are more important than on-field results (like, you know, integrity).


December 12th, 2010 at 4:42 PM ^

The legacy of the Pony Express is overwhelmed because they have the distinction of actually having the program temporarily shut down.

I wouldn't say the legacy of 1980s Miami is overwhelmed by cheating. It's a big part of it but it's not all people remember.

Too early to say what the legacy of the Bush teams at USC will be.



December 12th, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

The payoffs probably will never overwhelm their legacy to basketball in general. However, the question is whether Michigan should invite Webber back because he was really good and played on a really good team or whether Michigan should never let him come back as a statement of integrity. When answering this question, we should not be taking into account the opinions of people with no stake in Michigan athletics.

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 3:40 PM ^

Michigan trotting Chris Webber out to center court at Crisler would be a sign of nothing less than moral bankruptcy.  It's absolutely an integrity issue, and I would prefer my alma mater continue the disassociation once the NCAA-mandated time limit expires.  

The University of Michigan is a school that stands on integrity.  We've not always lived up to that standard, especially in this instance, but I'd like to think that we learn from mistakes so they don't happen again.  And a big part of that is by cutting off those who embarrassed us and put us in a position of national, negative scrutiny.  Our basketball program was tanked by this.  Absolutely tanked.  And there's no amount of nostalgia about black socks and baggy shorts that will make any of that better.


December 12th, 2010 at 10:32 AM ^

we have no way of knowing if any other athlete at UofM was on the take.  What if we find out that, for decades, guys from the football team or other sports were taking cash?  What do we do then, fold the program?  And does it matter to you that it seems like every single major program in the country has something similar going on?

I guess, in my mind, it's ridiculous these kids aren't getting a bigger stipend then they are given how much money the generate for the NCAA and their respective universities.  Most of these kids don't go on to the NFL but their contributions add enormous value to the University and the NCAA's pocket.  For example, I find it preposterous that the president of the NCAA makes as much as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company but has none of the job difficulty associated with running a Fortune 500 company (i.e., no competition).

Is a free education enough?  Should be, but I don't begrudge kids who come from a level of poverty I could never imagine for wanting more than just a degree - especially considering it could be their only chance to cash in big on their talents. 


December 12th, 2010 at 11:49 AM ^

This is where the documentary was going (I think).

They could have just shown SMU beating up on guys, the stuff about the boosters, and what the players got, and how that all happened.  That would have had a much different message.

To show the cheating, then what happened, and ultimately - what is happening today - while all the time giving the players significant camera time - suggests the notion that players might deserve more fiscal rewards.

That is the vibe I got, at least.  Now to your point -  I agree players are "under compensated" and should be given more (legally under new NCAA rules of course).  However, not every program is a Michigan, or an Ohio State, or a Texas.  Some of these schools (think Big East Conference) do not make money.  How could they afford to pay players more than they already do?  They cannot.  The question now becomes - does the NCAA keep the status quo, or move in the direction (where I think we are all headed) where players are more well compensated for the money they generate for their university?  Status quo seems to be working out alright for the "corporate fat cats", so we'll probably be here for awhile.  But the right thing to do is to free these "slaves" (Whitlock, yo) and have them be appropriately compensated.... legally. 


December 12th, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

Webber may have had a point when he complained about the University making money off of him, but at the end of the day, he broke the rules he agreed to abide by when he accepted a scholarship, and there's no reason why we should ever condone what his actions (and the future players who continued under his example with Ed Martin) did to our basketball program.  

Webber's case is a little different from that of the other three.  Ed Martin established a relationship with Mayce Webber back when Chris was in the 8th grade, when Martin tried to steer him to go to Southwestern HS and play for Perry Watson.  The NCAA has a "family friend" provision that excuses extra benefits if they come from someone who has established ties to the family going back a long time before college (and who was not doing so to steer a kid to a university).  The problem with Ed Martin was that much later, after Webber had arrived in Ann Arbor, Martin was given complimentary tickets to the Final Four and the NCAA then declared him a booster. 

Webber probably should have gotten off (while Taylor, Traylor and Bullock were rightfully banned).  This is a kid who had money shoved in his face from age 13, and whose own father condoned it.  It's easy to get sanctimonious about the whole thing and call him a "cheater," but really, what was he supposed to do?  Scold his own father for befriending Martin?

MyUncle played-4-UM

December 12th, 2010 at 2:12 PM ^

apply for a anybody who was young at the time and knew no better? Look at it like this, you let your family down do they disown for you not acknowledging the fact that you did wrong or should they forgive you only when you decide to accept blame and thenthey explain and  show you why they feel the way they do about the situation. Blame Frieder before you blame Webber. Without Webber we get no recognition other than the fact that we won in "89". We do not know all the particulars surrounding his case that is unless you go by what Mitch Albom says in his book. This is the same Mitch that was fawning over the kid in high school. The media helped create Webber and he ran with it. My little league football coach worked with his father Mayce at Ford, and they were not rich by any means. I read the situation as one where Martin helped kids out that did not have a lot. I agree if Webber did take money or anything he should apologize, but he owes me nothing. He was young and made a mistake. The NCAA is still making money off images of the Fab Five and their likeness. Im just saying the NCAA is highy sacriligious when it comes to these things and "at the end of the day" they are taking advantage of these kids and we need to know they make mistakes and it is all about learning and not repeating them. Sorry for ranting and p.s. Izzo had Mateen out the program after his recruiting trip(rollover) so do not forget to thank Izzo. Part of me wants to believe that is why Cleaves NBA career was cut short.


December 12th, 2010 at 1:56 AM ^

James was never proven to have taken money. He was there before the situation got entirely out of hand. They were a good football team at the time and he was from Texas. It's not unbelievable to think he just went there because it's where he wanted to go.