Chris Webber ignores invite to Oct. 8 ‘Fab Five’ forum

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
From left, Fab Five members Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson.

Ann Arbor  — The email came from the Michigan athletics department.

It’s a small, but perhaps significant sign that the healing between the university and the fabled Fab Five might be set to make some strides.

“The Fab Five at 25” forum, in the planning stages for the last several months, will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Hill Auditorium.

Michigan’s athletic department sent out the press release Thursday afternoon.

Three members of the Fab Five are set to take part in the panel discussion, including Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.

Chris Webber, who’s long alienated himself from his former teammates and the university, did not respond to a request for his attendance, said Yago Colas, a Michigan professor from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, who helped organize the forum.

The fifth member, Juwan Howard, can’t attend because he will be working as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat. Colas said organizers are working on preparing a taped video message from Howard.

“He was certainly very enthusiastic,” Colas said.

The forum, which is free and open to the public, also will include Billy Hawkins, a University of Houston professor; and Kevin Blackistone, a sports journalist and University of Maryland professor.

Colas said he’s still hopeful a member of the Michigan athletics department will participate. That is still in the works.

Colas said the athletics department has been very active in participating in planning meetings for the forum, with a representative at each official meeting.

Among those who have attended meetings are Doug Gnodtke, chief of staff to athletic director Warde Manuel; Kurt Svoboda, associate athletic director; and Tom Wywrot, of Michigan athletic communications.

“They’ve been involved throughout,” Colas said of the athletic department. “They’re co-sponsoring the event.”

The Fab Five remains a big part of sports lore, given the cultural impact the players had on the game, and the controversy that followed.

They famously reached the NCAA championship game as freshmen in 1992 and sophomores in 1993, losing both times. Many of their wins and both Final Four appearances later were wiped from the record after it was revealed players, including Webber, took money from big-time booster Ed Martin.

The scandal cost coach Steve Fisher — who also won’t be attending — his job in 1997, and Webber was ordered to be disassociated from the university for 10 years. That Webber ban ended three years ago, though Webber remains distant.

“I think it’s gonna be great,” Colas said of the forum, which will include an audience Q&A. “Just the fact that it’s taking place is already an accomplishment and speaks really well of the college, the athletics department, the members of the team.

“I also think the event’s gonna be really productive.”

The forum is taking place on a college football Saturday when Michigan is on the road. It’s taking place in the afternoon, so as not to interfere with fan viewing of the night game at Rutgers.