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Thursday, November 7
Updated: November 8, 11:49 AM ET
Recent history says NCAA will add to penalties

By Andy Katz

Michigan's self-imposed ban from the 2003 NIT or NCAA Tournament is the only penalty that can hurt the present program now or in the future.

The Wolverines can even play in the Big Ten tournament, unless the league decides otherwise in the coming months.

Everything else the Wolverines did to themselves Thursday was essentially erasing the past.

But the NCAA has a history of moving forward in these types of situations, wanting the programs to suffer some tangible pain that can't be swept away by pulling down banners, rewriting the media guide, handing back hundreds of thousands of dollars or telling a booster that he can't hang around the hallways after practice.

Michigan athletics director Bill Martin was proactive in reacting with penalties less than two weeks after the school received its official letter of inquiry detailing more than $600,000 worth of payments former booster Ed Martin gave to four former Michigan players -- Chris Webber (which he denies), Louis Bullock, Robert Traylor and Maurice Taylor.

But Bill Martin, no relation, probably didn't go far enough if the NCAA follows its present trend of being harder on a school than it ever is on itself.

The AD said the school looked at the scholarship-reduction issue but didn't feel it was appropriate in this situation.

"What makes this situation so unusual and so high profile is the high dollar amounts,'' Bill Martin said. "They were astronomical. They were also prior to and while the players were at Michigan. He had a relationship with them while they were in high school.''

Bill Martin was quick to point out that the Michigan case was different than others, such as the Minnesota academic scandal. But the reality is the NCAA doesn't differentiate when it comes to scholarship reductions -- a real hurt on a program trying to remain competitive.

The NCAA eliminated eight scholarships over four years at Minnesota. LSU had to deal with a reduction of scholarships for extra benefits for former player Lester Earl, and now five years after John Brady arrived and Earl was long gone, the school is finally operating with a full compliment of scholarships. And, like Michigan, none of the offending parties were still at the school at the time the penalty was handed down. But it doesn't matter.

"Scholarship reduction can be applied to any case,'' said NCAA infractions committee chair Tom Yeager, who is also the Colonial Athletic Association commissioner. "We just had a case with Texas (baseball) that had nothing to do with recruitment and they had scholarship reductions. Scholarship reductions is one of the penalties in a major case.''

Tommy Amaker
Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker can expect even harsher sanctions from the NCAA.

Clearly, this is a major case for Michigan and the NCAA. Yeager wouldn't get into the specifics of the Michigan case, and the committee on infractions is expected to rule on it at their February meeting with a March release of the findings.

Yeager said Michigan's or any school's, proactive approach certainly helps, but added that the NCAA would look to blend the sanctions. Michigan's best hope for a lighter sentence is the length of time from the original infraction -- the first one occurred in 1992.

"Some of the stuff is old, real old, but some of it isn't that long ago,'' Yeager said. "We'll have to discuss all of that.''

Bill Martin said the school would take "exception'' to any scholarship reduction. He reiterated, saying, "this isn't a recruiting case or an academic case and we don't believe it's appropriate to put it on the program.''

Present Michigan coach Tommy Amaker knew about the possibility of sanctions hanging over the program when he took the job two years ago. The players who have signed or committed -- and Amaker is doing a sensational job wrapping up top 50-100 recruits -- know Michigan could get harsher penalties. So, feeling empathy for them isn't necessary.

Minnesota's Dan Monson knew he would have to get through NCAA penalties when he took the Gophers job and the same is true when Brady replaced Dale Brown at LSU.

"Tommy is still with us and we're moving forward,'' Martin said. "He understands that we want students first, athletes second at this university.''

But the university needed to be harsher with the former players, too. Martin said he would welcome an apology from the four former players. But they need to be given a stiffer penalty, like a ban from the university for a bit. Three players (and allegedly Webber, too, although he denies it) took the money that ultimately embarrassed the program. Ed Martin isn't welcome, the records are voided, the banners down and yet the players can come around.

"We have no plans to disassociate them from the university,'' Bill Martin said. The players aren't expected to chip in for the $450,000 penalty to the NCAA, but they could ultimately do what former UMass center Marcus Camby did and reimburse the school. He paid back to the Minutemen the $150,000 that the school owed the NCAA for his agent-related violation that made them vacate their 1996 Final Four.

Martin said he would review the possibility of getting money from the players after the NCAA makes a ruling.

The NCAA could still go after the former coaches, if it has proof, and sanction them at San Diego State (Steve Fisher), Central Michigan (Jay Smith) and Detroit (Perry Watson). But that appears as a long shot, at best, and all three have denied any knowledge of what was going on during the years in question from 1992-97.

Meanwhile, Minnesota had to remove its 1998 NIT title, along with its 1997 Big Ten and Final Four banners. Minnesota officials say they have no idea where they are, whether or not they're in the bowels of Williams Arena or got tossed.

Martin at first joked, and said the banners could be put on E-Bay to be sold to recover some of the lost money the university would have to pay. But he said the Michigan banners will be moved to the historical library on campus, the depository for all the historical records of the university.

But if the university vacated the records in its media guide, and is essentially saying the Fab Five years never happened, then why are the banners being moved to a "historical'' area where history is recorded?

The truth is the games happened, the players were at Michigan and did compete.

Unfortunately, the way the NCAA works, someone has to pay for their mistakes, and it's usually the players and coaches that had nothing to do with the past misdeeds. Michigan took a soft first step, but expect the NCAA to make the next few steps even harsher -- if the infractions committee is consistent with its most recent actions.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at

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