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2008, February 22: DetNews.com – Rose’s celebration doesn’t mean U-M is ready to embrace the entire

June 24, 2008

bilde.jpgRose’s celebration doesn’t mean U-M is ready to embrace the entire Fab Five yet

Jalen Rose says he is "gonna wing it." This is no surprise. He has been
winging it for 20 years. The trash talk, the baggy shorts that always
seemed to be falling, the flamboyant passes — people loved him or
hated him because he winged it.

So when Rose addresses the Crisler Arena crowd Saturday afternoon, he
will wing it again. He has not prepared a speech. But he knows this
much: He will give a shout-out to his fellow Fab Fivers.

Including Chris Webber.

"Of course," Rose said Thursday. "No question about it. Anybody that is
embracing me is embracing everybody involved. I’m going to be the
representative. I’m looking at it as though Chris and Juwan (Howard)
got a game, and I’m going to be the representative."

If only it were so simple: Anybody that is embracing me is embracing
everybody involved. By NCAA mandate, Michigan cannot embrace Chris
Webber until May 2013. Webber’s stats have been vacated. The school
cannot take a dime from him nor associate with him.

Chris Webber is persona non grata at the University of Michigan. Yet
the school will give out 2,000 T-shirts honoring Jalen Rose, Webber’s
childhood buddy and collegiate best friend.

It will be another strange day for a program that must embrace its past with a one-armed hug.

What to think about Fab Five?
In an e-mail to the media, the Michigan athletic department announced,
"U-M Athletics to Celebrate Community Work of Jalen Rose Foundation."

In an e-mail to ticket holders, the school proclaimed it "Jalen Rose Day."

Semantics? Perhaps. But it raises the question: What is Saturday’s ceremony about?

An NCAA investigation concluded that Webber accepted an astounding
$280,000 from late booster Ed Martin at Michigan. Former Wolverines
Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock also took big money.

As part of its sanctions, U-M took down its Final Four banners from the
Fab Five years. The school is in the awkward position of trying to
honor Rose while denying his team’s accomplishments.

Rose was not named in the NCAA report. When Martin’s records were
seized, they showed he had lent Webber $280,000, but there was no
record of loans to Rose.

Yet it is difficult to believe that Webber took $280,000 from Martin
and Rose took nothing. (In 2002, Rose did say that Martin gave him
pocket money. It is possible that Martin expected Webber to pay him
back, but not Rose.)

More than 16 years after Rose and the Fab Five showed up on campus, the
University of Michigan still doesn’t know quite what to make of them.

Strange relationship
There are two major groups of Michigan basketball fans: the Old Blues
in Ann Arbor and Detroit fans who don’t necessarily have any official
tie to the school.

In the Fab Five era, the Old Blues struggled with two questions:

Should we love these guys because they win?

Or should we hate them because of how they do it?

The Old Blues are still asking those questions. Still. After 16 years.
Do you love them because they won? Or hate them because (at least) one
of them violated NCAA rules to do it?

Do you honor Jalen Rose for his community work? Or do you celebrate his
achievements? And if so, which achievements? The ones that were deleted
from the record book?

Rose says he is honored and touched by the ceremony. But he also thinks
the school tried to distance itself from the Fab Five even before the
Ed Martin scandal broke.

"A lot of times, to be a trendsetter and originator, you have to take
the bumps and the bruises from public opinion and media in order to
clear the landscape for those that follow behind," he said. "To have a
tattoo in college then was taboo. I was considered a bad guy or a thug.
To wear long shorts made us look like we were in somebody’s ghetto or
somebody’s playground."

Last fall, Rose paid for a billboard to honor the Fab Five. The
billboard features the jerseys of Rose, Webber, Howard, Jimmy King and
Ray Jackson — but does not feature a block "M" or any direct reference
to the school.

"I didn’t want them to try to sue me or make it an issue," he said.

Rose also decided to put the billboard in Detroit, instead of Ann
Arbor, so that nobody would think he was being confrontational. The Old
Blues still don’t really trust him.

But then, he doesn’t totally trust them, either. And no matter how many
scholarships Rose gives, and how many times U-M honors him, he’ll still
be a Detroiter who is perplexed by what has happened to Webber.

And he says recruits are perplexed, too.

"They tell themselves, ‘Wow. If those guys aren’t appreciated for what
they brought to the table, there is nothing I can do that is going to
top their accomplishments, not only from a state standpoint but from a
national-influence standpoint,’ " Rose said.

Rose says he looks around the country and sees other players who
committed NCAA violations and "they still are embraced, still are
appreciated. That is for any school across the U.S. All schools have
had their run-ins with the NCAA. You can’t name one that hasn’t."

An underlying motive?
Why is Rose being honored? Well, U-M would like to build a basketball practice facility to compete with the rest of the Big Ten.

But to do that, Michigan needs to raise some serious money from somebody who cares about the program.

Jalen Rose made more than $100 million in his NBA career.

You do the math.

Rose acknowledged he has had preliminary discussions with Michigan
about donating for the practice facility, and he said, "That is
something I would like to be a part of."

If he so desired, Rose probably could donate enough to have the practice facility named after him.

Michigan could have a Jalen Rose Basketball Complex — and Chris Webber wouldn’t be allowed in.

"Picture that," Rose said. "But you got a big Fab Five picture hanging
up on the wall. Because Jalen wouldn’t have a practice facility if it
wasn’t going to represent the Fab Five.

"It does kind of bother me when I’m going from Michigan Stadium to
Crisler through a new indoor tunnel that was built, and I see a
likeness of all the Michigan greats and we’re noticeably absent."

U-M says one of those greats will be honored Saturday.

To which Jalen Rose says: More than one.

"Ultimately, I’m there to represent all of us," he said. "The marquee
may say it’s a presentation for Jalen Rose. But being I’m a point guard
and No. 5, anybody that knows me knows I’m there for more than just
myself."

Contact MICHAEL ROSENBERG at 313-222-6052 or mrosenberg@freepress.com.