UM athletic director Warde Manuel: 'I made no apology to Chris (Webber)'

A day after former Michigan Fab Five star Chris Webber said in a report that Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel privately apologized to him, Manuel said that is false.

Webber, in a lengthy ESPN interview published Wednesday, said Manuel apologized to him for the way the school handled the fallout from the investigation into claims Webber had received illegal payments from former booster Ed Martin.

Warde Manuel

“I was told by the athletic department at the University of Michigan that he was sorry,” Webber, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, said in the article.

Manuel, in a statement Thursday to The Detroit News, painted a different picture of the meeting with Webber.

“I enjoyed the conversation with Chris when we met several years ago,” Manuel said. “But I can assure you I made no apology to Chris and, for those who may be curious, I never asked him to apologize to the University of Michigan.

“I wish Chris nothing but the best, and I’m happy that he’s being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.”

Webber was the centerpiece of the famed Fab Five, which included Jalen Rose, current Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. He helped lead the Wolverines to back-to-back NCAA national title game appearances in 1992 and 1993 before leaving for the NBA after his sophomore season.

In 2003, the NCAA mandated a 10-year disassociation between Webber and Michigan — a penalty that ended in 2013. 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 statistics being stripped from the program’s record books.

Webber said in the ESPN story that Manuel “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,’” Webber said.

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.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis