John Bacon’s Blog is required reading each week & he recently posted a few thoughts on the Fab Five documentary and the legacy of the controversial quintet.   Bacon broke the M-14 roll-over story a decade and a half ago (which sparked the investigation) and he ties that story to Fisher’s culpability:

But I had to wonder: If the press could figure all this out in about 24 hours, why couldn’t Steve Fisher connect the dots right under his nose over several years?  They say he wasn’t part of the payola plan, and that’s probably true.  But you’d have to be willfully blind not to see its effects by 1996. 

When Fisher was fired, he said they’d built an elite program, which was true, and they’d “done it the right way,” which wasn’t –  and by the time he was fired, he had to know it. 

Bacon added this:

To this day, Fisher has never accepted any responsibility for what happened on his watch, and Chris Webber has never apologized for taking over a quarter-million dollars from a booster.

There’s always interesting commentary on his site & Bacon usually joins in to respond.  This time Bacs’ post elicited a comment Steve Fishman, the man who represented Webber in the federal criminal investigation:

…there is one thing in the story that still grates on me after all these years, and that is the suggestion that Webber received a quarter of a million dollars ($280,000 in most accounts) from Ed Martin. That figure, which I have always referred to as an urban legend, was unsupported by any evidence. As a result, the federal judge assigned to the Webber case granted my motion to prohibit the government from even mentioning that figure had the case gone to trial. For some reason, and Webber deserves some of the blame for this for failing to discuss the issue in public, everyone has always accepted that number and essentially ignored the facts.

Fishman then delivers to Bacs a condescending compliment (“you appear to be a serious journalist who would probably like to have all the facts..”) but more importantly, he offers a copy of his original motion and the court’s response.   That would be good to see but this would be better. 

More Fishman:

One other thing: A number of people have told me since the showing of the documentary that they were impressed with Mitch Albom’s comments regarding Webber having no money while at U-M. I was impressed with that too – 9 years ago when we were preparing for trial. Unfortunately, Mitch was not quite so forthcoming when I attempted to contact him and put him on my witness list. Instead, I was forced to file a motion to compel him to testify when he (through his lawyer, of course) claimed some type of privilege. That motion, which makes for pretty entertaining reading, is also available if you are interested.

“SEND THAT MOTION!  SEND THAT MOTION!”, the crowd chanted as the Send That Motion dancers shook it at midcourt.  –> mail [at] mvictors.com 

Bacon responded to Fishman’s comment here.

Elsewhere:
Speaking of lawyers, motions and takes, if you have the means, hook up with former WTKA radio host, NHL’er, lawyer, Michigan asst hockey coach etc., etc., Dave Shand on Facebook.  I disagree with 90% of Shand’s political views but brother, the Dems could sure use a real man with some stones as a media voice. 

5 Comments

  1. Let’s be clear about something: According to what’s written above, this argument is made by someone *claiming* to be Webber’s attorney — his paid representative if true, just some moron if not — in blog comments. The court document, if it exists, is a motion filed by an attorney — his/her argument to the court — not even the judge’s ruling on it. If you’ve been involved in a court case, you know that attorneys file motions trying to get any angle they can. They’re not evidence and are supposed to be heavily biased in favor of the attorney’s client. And a judge’s ruling, if it exists, can depend on many issues that have nothing to do with the facts, such as points of law, admissibility, etc.

    If we really want to know, instead of giving one side an unchallenged platform to publicize their story, why not look into the source of that number, such as the media reports of that time? Why not look at the NCAA’s or UofM’s report? And I mean, really look for what happened, not for evidence that promotes what we wish was true (you can always find some evidence for any argument).

    As you look into it, there’s no reason to think we’ll be happy with the results; you may find that it’s worse than official reports. Courts are limited to specific rules of evidence and to conclusions that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, sometimes evidence is inadmissible based on the way it was obtained, and in real life, many things happen that can’t be proven. Also the NCAA or U of M have reasons to play down aspects particularly harmful to them.

    Just because we liked the way they played basketball doesn’t make them any more likely to have behaved well. Personally, I’d rather we forget this history as soon as possible. Having prominent alums in the news debating details of exactly how badly they behaved is not good for the University.

  2. This story will never go away, so pretending otherwise is silly. Five enormously influential basketball players have had their legacy stripped away and don’t want it to be so. Given that two of them are professional broadcasters, it’s kind of hard to shove them under the rug.

    I think it would be great to get to the bottom of that figure. If it turns out that Webber took more money than that, so what? He’s already had his reputation tarnished. I’m curious to know more about this because there were persistent rumors that Martin laundered money to other, non-U-M players, but only Michigan got nailed for it. If another program’s players were on the take, that should be on the record, too.

  3. Tony, I’m just curious: how do you feel about Charles Woodson? He had tattoos, talked more than his share of junk (on the field and off), and most likely accepted gifts from an agent before the ’98 Rose Bowl, which could have forced us to vacate that game. (To this day, I don’t know how we got off there.) Is he, too, guilty of “bad behavior” and should be shunned? Or should he be embraced because he got away with it?

    Here’s my view: college athletics is probably way, way dirtier than fans want to admit. That’s how it is. To pretend that Webber and the other three were the only Michigan players to ever accept illicit gifts is probably laughably off-base.

  4. George – Interesting questions, except one: Who cares about tattoos and trash talking?

    If Woodson took gifts, that’s a problem in proportion to the mistake. I don’t agree that our only choices are to shun people or to embrace their mistakes. I do think that the response of those making a mistake should be to come clean, take responsibility, apologize, and do your best to make whole the victims of your actions. That kind of behavior repairs trust.

    I don’t see the Fab Five doing much of that, though I may be unaware of some things individuals have done. Webber sending his attorney, if it was really him, to plant a rumor in a blog about one detail of his case only makes it worse (I doubt the attorney would publicly discuss his client without approval).

    If you want to rehab your reputation, how about coming clean instead of making these relatively trivial arguments? If you didn’t take $280K from Ed Martin, how much did you take? What other transactions were there? And with whom?

  5. George – I forgot to address your last comment. Yes, college athletics is probably far dirtier than fans want to admit, just like most other institutions in our society (name one that doesn’t come out that way when closely examined). But, that doesn’t mean that Michigan needs to be that way.

    Also, it would indeed be laughable to think that the Fab Five were the only ones to break the rules, but I don’t think that; perfection isn’t the standard, but excellence and dealing well with our mistakes is.