Chris Webber says UM AD Warde Manuel apologized for fallout from 2003

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The rocky relationship between the University of Michigan and former Fab Five star Chris Webber reportedly has taken a step toward being smoothed out.

In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN, Webber said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel privately apologized to him for the way the school handled the fallout following the investigation into claims Webber had received illegal payments from former booster Ed Martin.

The revelation comes as Webber, who made a name for himself at Detroit Country Day before starring at Michigan and in the NBA, is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Manuel declined to comment to The Detroit News.

Former Fab Five star Chris Webber will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

“I was told by the athletic director at the University of Michigan that he was sorry,” Webber told ESPN. “And he wasn't even there at the time (I was playing). He told me that he did his research and that he needs to apologize. His exact words (were), he needs 'to apologize to the 18-year-old Chris Webber because we didn't protect him.'”

Manuel, who was hired as athletic director in 2016, played football at Michigan from 1986-89 and worked at the school in the early 1990s. But Manuel had no involvement in the investigation and punishment surrounding Webber, whose relationship with Michigan has been a sore subject for years.

As the centerpiece of the famed Fab Five — a quintet that included Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — Webber led the Wolverines to back-to-back NCAA national title game appearances in 1992 and 1993 before leaving for the NBA after his sophomore season.

Then in 2003, the NCAA mandated a 10-year disassociation between Webber and Michigan — a penalty that ended in 2013 — after he was the only Fab Five member linked to Martin and a $600,000 payment scandal. It led to both the 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners being taken down at Crisler Center and Webber’s stats being stripped from the program’s record books.

Webber’s role in the scandal tainted the group’s legacy and strained his relationship with his former teammates. He was the lone member of the Fab Five who didn't have a presence at an October 2016 campus forum celebrating the 25th anniversary of the teams; he didn't respond to invitations. Nor did he participate in a documentary on the team.

It wasn't until three years ago Webber made his return to Michigan's campus, when he accepted an invitation from football coach Jim Harbaugh to be an honorary captain at a game.

Webber is planning to detail his experience at Michigan in his upcoming book, “By God’s Grace," and he's developing his own limited script TV series about the Fab Five.

“I was the lowest-hanging fruit. I had the biggest name,” Webber told ESPN of the school’s investigation. “I knew that then, so hopefully some of the things in (my upcoming book) will reveal what happened, how things happened and hopefully just life can go (on) or it can just get back to normal in that way. Hopefully, once we address all this good stuff, we'll get back to it.”

Manuel told The News in 2019 that he felt Webber doesn’t need to apologize to the university.

“I’ve never gone there,” Manuel said at the time. “There are certain fans who feel he does. At this point in time, everything has been dealt with and settled. I don’t need anybody to apologize, unless they feel the need to apologize. That’s never come out of my mouth.”

However, Rose has said numerous times over the years that he wishes Webber would apologize for his wrongdoing. The two had a fractured relationship that Webber said still needs to be mended before they can move forward and bring the Fab Five back together.

“There has been that rift because Jalen has decided to talk and I've said we should handle everything behind the scenes,” Webber told ESPN. “It was just, it's an honor system. It's a code. And he knows what that is because that's what we built the Fab Five on and he did not adhere to that code multiple times. His family told him multiple times and that is what happened. And I still love him. That's my boy. … All it takes is a 30-second conversation.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins