Sept 25, 2003
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - 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."
Tommy Amaker and the Wolverines will be eligible to play in the 2004 NCAA tournament.