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Wolverines win appeal of sanctions

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan became the first school in five
years to win an appeal with the NCAA.

The Wolverines will be eligible for postseason play in 2004
after winning an appeal of an NCAA ban that resulted from a
booster's payment to players. The decision to overturn the ban
handed down in May was made by the NCAA's infractions appeals
committee.

"I am thrilled for the young men on our team, and I believe
they truly deserve this opportunity," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
said Thursday in a statement.

Michigan's successful appeal ends its seven-year saga involving
former booster Ed Martin, who died earlier this year.

After pleading guilty to conspiracy to launder money in 2002,
Martin told the federal government he lent $616,000 to former
Wolverines Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis
Bullock.

The NCAA has said it was the largest financial scandal in its
history.

According to the appeals committee's report, Michigan won its
appeal for a number of reasons: the university was not a repeat
rules violator; did not lack institutional control; did not commit
academic fraud; did not gain a significant competitive advantage
from the violations; and Martin did not remain active in the
program.

"The institution's extraordinary efforts transcended
'cooperation,"' the committee added in its report.

NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes said 10 programs have been banned
from postseason play in consecutive years over the last decade.

Of those cases, seven were appealed, five were upheld and two
were overturned in 1998, Hawes said, referring to sanctions against
the basketball programs at Louisiana State and Louisville.

Amaker told Michigan's current players about the appeal decision
Wednesday night.

"We all just cheered, had smiles on our faces, jumped up and
down and hugged each other," senior Bernard Robinson said.

Of the NCAA sanctions handed down in May, the ban on
participation in the NCAA tournament and NIT was the only one that
Michigan appealed. Other sanctions, including 3½ years of probation
and the loss of one scholarship in each of four seasons beginning
in 2004-2005, remain in effect.

"We accepted full responsibility for the wrongdoing that
occurred, and we felt that the loss of scholarships, extended
probation, and other penalties imposed by the NCAA were an
appropriately severe response to the violations," President Mary
Sue Coleman said in a statement.

As grounds for the appeal, Michigan cited an NCAA bylaw that
states, "An important consideration in imposing penalties is to
provide fairness to uninvolved student-athletes, coaches. ... "

Terry Don Phillips, chairman of the appeals committee and
Clemson's athletic director, said as a matter of policy, no
additional comments would be made regarding the decision.

Expectations for last season's Michigan team were low because of
an apparent lack of talent and motivation. The Wolverines lost
their first six games, but staged a remarkable turnaround by
winning 13 straight games for the first time since 1987-88.

Michigan finished with its best season in five years, going
17-13 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten. The 2003-04 Wolverines are
expected to contend for an NCAA tournament berth.

Michigan officials hoped the penalties they imposed on their
program in November 2002 would appease the NCAA.

Those penalties included a postseason ban for 2003; forfeiture
of 112 regular season and tournament victories from five seasons,
plus its victory in the 1992 NCAA semifinal; returning $450,000 to
the NCAA for money earned from the NCAA tournament during those
years; and placing itself on two years' probation.

It also removed four banners from Crisler Arena: for the 1992
and 1993 Final Fours, 1997 NIT title and 1998 Big Ten tournament
title.

Martin, a self-described basketball booster, told federal
prosecutors he took gambling money and combined it with other funds
for the loans to the players, hoping they would pay him back when
they became professionals. Martin was awaiting sentencing when he
died in February at age 69 of a pulmonary embolism.

"This long and unpleasant chapter in the university history has
ended once and for all," athletic director Bill Martin said in a
statement. "We have learned some hard lessons from this
experience, but we emerged from it with a stronger program and a
renewed commitment to the highest standards of integrity."