UM will host public forum on Fab Five

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

Ann Arbor -- Jimmy King, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson will highlight a roundtable discussion this fall on the impact, culturally and athletically, of Michigan's famed "Fab Five" basketball team.

The roundtable, sponsored by Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts, will take place Oct. 8 at a campus site to be determined. The event will be ticketed, but open to the public and free.

"I'm hoping to have or start a public discussion on the University of Michigan campus about the history of this team," said Yago Colas, a UM professor of comparative literature and humanities who also does research in sports studies.

"Basically, what I want is to start a conversation about an era that I think has left the university with a lot of raw feelings."

Juwan Howard will be invited to participate, as well, but might not be able to, as it might be too close to NBA season; he's an assistant with the Miami Heat.

Chris Webber, the face of the "Fab Five" who had a falling-out with some of his old teammates, is not expected to attend.

"He has really isolated himself from his teammates, and from the university in general," said Colas, who proposed and will moderate the roundtable. "We don't have any plans for Chris to be there."

King trying to get UM to raise Fab Five banners

Sportswriters and sportscasters will participate in the roundtable, as well, including Kevin Blackistone from ESPN, and Billy J. Hawkins, a professor at the University of Georgia.

LSA dean Andrew Martin OKd the event on the "Fab Five," which was admired by young men across the country, both for the way they played and looked -- with their long shorts and black socks. The athletic department is not yet involved, but would be welcome to participate, Colas said.

"This was really an academic enterprise," he said. "Now that the word's out, they may be interested in having somebody. I would certainly be open to that."

King broke the news of the roundtable on an ESPN podcast over the weekend, but opted to have Colas speak for him to The Detroit News. King said getting the two Final Four banners from the "Fab Five" freshman and sophomore seasons back up in the Crisler Center rafters is an ultimate priority.

The banners are rolled up and in storage, as famously chronicled by ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary series.

"The banners to me are a symbol of a number of things, first and foremost, a symbol of the victories this team earned on the court," Colas said. "But they're also, in hiding, a symbol of the university's unwillingness to really discuss the history of these teams.

"I'm more interested in the conversation than the outcome."

The "Fab Five," which this fall will celebrate the 25th anniversary of when the five freshmen arrived on campus, have had their accomplishments essentially wiped from Michigan's record book, because of the Ed Martin scandal. Martin, a booster, paid Webber and others while they were students at Michigan.

The payments came to light in 1996, and coach Steve Fisher was fired in 1997. In 2002, Michigan vacated the wins -- all those leading up to championship game appearances (and losses) in 1992 and 1993 -- and placed itself on probation.

Fisher, now the coach at San Diego State, is not expected to participate in the roundtable discussion.

"We've got kids in my classes that know something about this, but don't know much or aren't well-informed," Colas said. "I would like to rectify that."