ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Maurice Taylor and Louis Bullock are eager to reconnect with Michigan.
In their first interviews about the Ed Martin booster scandal, both former players told The Associated Press they hope to re-establish a relationship with the university now that a decade-long dissociation ordered by the NCAA has ended.
Taylor and Bullock said they both regret choices they made as young men that ended up staining the school and stunting the basketball program.
What about Chris Webber? The public may have to wait for him to publish his book. But as of Wednesday, Webber, Taylor and Bullock all have the option of renewing their relationship with the Wolverines.
Athletic director Dave Brandon insisted the door is open for all three former players. Bullock and Taylor, at least, say they plan to take advantage of the invitation.
“This morning, I felt really good about the dissociation being over and having the opportunity to reunite with the University of Michigan,” Taylor said. “I’m excited to talk to Mr. Brandon and coach (John) Beilein. While I had some success in the NBA, there was a void in my life because of the circumstances. I had three of the best years of my life there and I love that school and all that it stands for.”
The NCAA forced Michigan to dissociate from Webber, Taylor, Bullock and the late Robert Traylor for a decade because a federal investigation revealed the now-deceased Martin gave them more than $600,000 when they were students.
“When each one of us took money or gifts from Ed, long before we were in college, we were looking through innocent eyes,” Taylor said in an interview Wednesday. “We weren’t trying to hurt Michigan. I think it was a little harsh that we were punished for such a long period of time for what we did as kids.”
Bullock said he accepted money from Martin because he simply thought everyone was doing it.
“When I was 18, I thought that’s just how life was on college campuses,” Bullock told AP. “I wish it didn’t happen, but my parents taught me to admit it when you do something wrong and accept the consequences.”
Bullock said he simply blocked out the situation while playing professionally in Europe until taking this past season off. While Taylor said one of his aunts was counting down the days until the dissociation ended, Bullock said he had lost track of the time.
“It was easier for me to basically forget about it than it was for C-Webb, Mo and Rob because they were in the NBA,” said Bullock, who lives in Maryland and is contemplating ending his playing career. “I was off in Europe and I was the guy who was kind of forgotten about.”
Brandon said he has never spoken to Webber, Taylor or Bullock. He declined to say whether each would have to apologize for what they were accused of doing to be welcomed back.
“I wasn’t around when all of this happened,” Brandon said. “I’ve never had an opportunity to interact with them to talk about anything and I am hopeful that opportunity will present itself.”
Martin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, saying he took gambling money and combined it with other funds in loans to Webber, other players and their families. Martin died in February 2003 on the same day Michigan officials met with the NCAA infractions committee.
“Ed was made out to be something he wasn’t, he wasn’t a booster who steered you to a school or guy who preyed on kids,” said Taylor, a retired NBA player who lives in Houston and works for a private equity business. “He was just a great guy in Detroit, who helped out anybody playing ball of any kind in the city.”
Messages seeking comment were left for Webber, Beilein, former coach Steve Fisher and school president Mary Sue Coleman,. Traylor died in 2011, when police in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was playing professionally, found him dead in his oceanfront apartment.
“I know Lou and Mo would love to come back, but Chris is the wild card,” said Dugan Fife, who played at Michigan with all four of the formerly dissociated players. “Some people go to college and never come back and if that happens with Chris, I think that would be sad.”
A decade ago, the NCAA barred the Wolverines from postseason play for one year, took scholarships away and put the school on probation for what the governing body said was “one of the most egregious violations of NCAA laws in the history of the organization.”
Martin’s name surfaced after Taylor lost control of his car on Feb. 17, 1996. He was returning from a party in Detroit with four teammates who were entertaining Mateen Cleaves on his official recruiting visit. Cleaves later signed with Michigan State and led that team to the 2000 NCAA title.
The well-publicized crash led to the first of three investigations, the firing of Fisher and a cloud that hovered over Michigan’s basketball program until recently.
Webber pleaded guilty to a criminal contempt charge in July 2003, a day before jury selection was scheduled to start for his trial on a perjury charge. He was accused of lying about money authorities say the player received from Martin.
In his plea, Webber admitted lying to the grand jury in 2000, saying he did not recall giving money to Martin. Webber acknowledged in the plea that in 1994 he gave Martin about $38,000 in cash as partial repayment for expenditures Martin made on his behalf.
Webber was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine, completed 330 hours of community service and paid expenses of more than $78,000.
Webber has rarely addressed the scandal or its fallout.
“I didn’t do anything, so I don’t feel sorry for them,” Webber once said.
Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — three-fifths of the famed Fab Five — were honored by the school in a bittersweet ceremony Nov. 21, 2010, during halftime of a game at Crisler Arena. Above their heads in the rafters, the 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners they helped the Wolverines earn were missing. The school took them down, rolled them up, wrapped them in plastic and tucked them behind a locked door on the bottom shelf of a narrow cage near other artifacts such as Civil War diaries.
Juwan Howard, who plays for the Miami Heat, joined Rose, King and Jackson last month in Atlanta to watch the Wolverines play Louisville in the NCAA final. Webber was there, too, in a suite.
Michigan also removed championship banners from the 1997 National Invitational Tournament — when Taylor, Traylor and Bullock were teammates — and the Big Ten tournament in 1998, the year after Taylor entered the NBA draft.
“Now that the program is back to where it was when we were back in school, I hope we’re all embraced again,” Rose told The AP earlier this year. “I don’t think Chris is interested in apologizing and if that is the only criteria, I hope that isn’t held against all the guys who put a lot of sweat equity into that school and program.”
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