Defensive end Chase Winovich says Michigan's season is defined by more than the national rankings. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed yet again that Fab Five centerpiece Chris Webber will be the honorary captain for Saturday’s game against Penn State.
Webber, during a radio appearance in June, immediately accepted Harbaugh’s invitation to return to Michigan as an honorary captain and said he was “definitely going to be a part of it.”
Harbaugh gave him the option to select a game.
“I would definitely be honored, Coach, and you know I would do anything for you,” Webber said at the time. “You know, the No. 4s at Michigan, we’ve got to stick together."
It appears to be a step toward Webber mending his strained relationship with Michigan. After he starred for the Wolverines and helped them reach the national title game in 1992 and 1993, both losses, his name became closely tied to former booster Ed Martin and a $600,000-plus payment scandal.
It led to the NCAA mandating a 10-year disassociation between Webber and Michigan — a penalty that ended in 2013 — and both the 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners being taken down at Crisler Center.
Since the ban has been lifted, basketball coach John Beilein said he has been trying to “build bridges” between Webber and the program, and has reached out to him numerous times.
However, there’s no indication Webber’s return to campus will have anything to do with a possible Fab Five reunion, although Webber has made it known he would like to reunite with former teammates Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson at some point in the future.
"There's nothing I would want more than (a reunion), and I think we're on the right path for that, but I think there has to be conversation organically," Webber said in June.
"For the fans I want to do it, for myself, for my family, for hoopers. It's something I think we're working toward."
In August, Rose, the main catalyst among the players trying to get some resolution to the issues from both side, told The Detroit News he sees Webber’s return to UM as a move in the right direction.
“Nov. 3 is a huge date as an icebreaker once he goes to campus and he’s celebrated by the fans and he gets a chance to be welcomed by Jim Harbaugh,” Rose said during a break in the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy golf outing in August. “That’s going to be a catalyst for what could happen going forward.”
In recent years, Rose and Webber have gone back and forth about how the situation could be resolved, with Rose ingratiating himself with Michigan, while Webber has continued with his broadcast career as an NBA analyst and for the most part, hasn't acknowledged his affiliation with the Fab Five extensively.
Rose, who also produced a popular documentary about the Fab Five, has maintained that it’s been long enough and the impasse should be ended, for others involved — not just the Fab Five.
“For those who were cloudy on the topic, what gets lost is everybody else became collateral damage," he said. "For (Coach) Steve Fisher, you don’t see where his legacy is celebrated, for someone who’s been to three finals games and won a national championship at the university and the fans who didn’t get a chance to celebrate the legacy and the other members of the Fab Five and of the team.
“It’s like the University of Michigan and Chris Webber got a divorce and we were like the kids trying to figure out which parents we were going to visit. For a long time, none of us spoke on the topic.”
Webber has been inclined to mend fences with UM recently, as he said in June on “The Dan Patrick Show” that he “never really felt any type of way” about working to make things amicable with the university.
Harbaugh, with whom Webber says he has a good relationship, could be the connector to pull things together. Webber says the two have been in contact frequently and when Harbaugh extended the invitation in the past, it just hasn’t been right. Things look to be changing now.
“He’s asked me three years in a row, and I said I didn’t think it was the right time,” Webber told Patrick in June. “I definitely want to show up and have some fun with it.”
Rose is looking forward to a time when all five members can be back together and give the proper due to one of the most celebrated teams in recent history in college basketball. There’s still work to do, but Webber’s return to campus looks to be a huge stride in that direction.
The sticking point previously was the thought that Webber needed to apologize for his role in the probation and sanctions that UM endured as a result of the scandal. Rose, though, thinks that the apologies go both ways.
“As the kids who saw the parents divorced. I think there are going to be apologies eventually on both sides,” Rose said. “Each entity is going to truly identify things they could have done differently in that scenario as well. Based on that, I think those things start when he goes back to campus.”