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The Life

June 14, 2002
A tough sell
ESPN The Magazine

Michigan AD Bill Martin has a problem. It seems the hockey fans at Wolverines games were pushing the limits last season with their taunting. For years fans at Yost Arena shouted "sieve! sieve! sieve!" after a goal. When a cell phone rang in the stadium, the students would yell, "Hey Goalie! It's your mom! She says you suck!" Or, when the goalie took off his mask, they'd chant "Ugly Goalie," and start cheering as soon as he put it back on.

But last season the taunting became a little nastier, a little raunchier, and a little scarier for visiting parents. "Some of the things the kids were saying were inappropriate," says Martin. "And we'll deal with it."

Of course, compared to the other mess Martin has to deal with, toning down unruly fans seems almost quaint.

Ed Martin
Bad news for Uncle Eddie.
Ever since Martin left behind an Ann Arbor banking and real estate empire two years ago to take over Michigan's athletic department -- first on an interim basis, and now full-time -- issue No. 1 on his to-do list has been dealing with Ed Martin (no relation), basketball booster extraordinaire.

A little background from my story in The Magazine: Ed Martin is a Detroit hoops junkie/former numbers runner who recently admitted loaning former UM stars Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock a combined $600,000. Before Martin came clean, the questions Bill Martin -- Michigan's third AD in six years -- dealt with every day were: What did the guy do? Who did he do it with? How long had it been going on?

Now that we know the answers, the only questions left are: How bad will the NCAA penalties be, and how soon before Michigan basketball is competitive again?

"We may have to forfeit the Final Four seasons or give back the money we got for the tournament, we don't know what the penalties will be," says Martin. "But with every single recruit, this issue is raised."

That included the recruit Martin most needed to turn the program around. When he lured coach Tommy Amaker away from Seton Hall in March of 2001, he also promised Amaker that, for every year Michigan was penalized, his contract would be extended in kind.

But for Martin, selling Amaker on Michigan was relatively easy compared to the sales job Amaker has had to do. Not only did he inherit a program that is 73-78 since 1977 and had the specter of NCAA sanctions hanging over its head -- he was also the first head football or basketball coach the school hired in 30 years who hadn't already been on staff or previously coached in the state. Despite his All-America pedigree from Duke, despite leading Seton Hall to four postseason appearances in four years, he was an outsider.

"Detroit's not an easy town," Detroit King HS coach Benny White told the Detroit Free Press when Amaker was hired. "There's a lot of good people here to recruit, but it's a hard town. If you're not in, it's hard to get in."

With his slick mock turtlenecks and easy smile, Amaker is a born recruiter. And, having been part of Mike Krzyzewski's first wave of talent, and then coaching beside K in Durham for nine years, all the while recruiting against Dean Smith, he knows what it's like to go head-to-head with an in-state legend for the top local talent.

The first thing Amaker did when he took the Michigan job was mail a letter of introduction to nearly 600 high school coaches all over the state. Then he hit the road, pressing flesh with Detroit Public League coaches, speaking at their meetings, convincing them that he could make Michigan hoops matter again.

Some players are listening. His signees for 2002 included 6'11" C Chris Hunter, 6'5" F Lester Abram, both top-15 players at their positions, and 6'3" PG Daniel Horton, a McDonald's All-American from Texas. All three signed with Michigan during the early recruiting period last November and, most important, no one bailed once the most salacious and damaging of the details surrounding Ed Martin came out last March.

"But it certainly hasn't helped us," says Amaker. "When the situation was first unraveling it was a tough time for us."

It may get tougher. Sometime during the next two months, Ed Martin will sit down with Bill Martin and tell him everything he's done with any player who suited up for Michigan. Depending on what Ed says, despite the fact the school is already two coaches and two athletic directors removed from the Ed Martin days, Amaker's team may suffer the consequences.

And that would give Michigan fans, hockey or otherwise, something to really yell about.

Chad Millman is a frequent contributor to ESPN The Magazine. His book, The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers, and the Death of Their Las Vegas is now available in paperback from DaCapo Press. E-mail him at

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