Just when it seemed as if the University of Michigan and Chris Webber had taken a step toward reconciliation, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel denied the former Fab Five member’s claim that Manuel had apologized to Webber.
Webber, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, recently told ESPN that Manuel had apologized to him for the way he was treated during a 2003 investigation that led to his 10-year dissociation from the school.
On Friday, Manuel said Webber’s account is not true.
“I enjoyed the conversation with Chris when we met several years ago,” Manuel said in a statement through the school. “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.”
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Webber told ESPN that Manuel privately apologized to him for the way the school had dealt with the fallout of an investigation surrounding claims that Webber had accepted money from former booster Ed Martin.
Manuel, who was hired as athletic director in 2016, played football at Michigan from 1986 through 1989 and worked for the school in the early 1990s when Webber played in Ann Arbor.
He had no role in any investigations surrounding Webber, who subsequently pleaded guilty to a criminal contempt charge in federal court and admitted to giving Martin more than $38,000 as a repayment.
“I was told by the athletic director at the University of Michigan [Manuel], that he was sorry,” Webber told ESPN during a wide-ranging interview at his home in the Atlanta area ahead of his induction. “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.'”
Following the plea deal, Michigan disassociated from Webber for 10 years — a period that ended in 2013 — and stripped the former collegiate All-American’s stats from its record books. While the four other members of the Fab Five — Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — attended Michigan’s matchup against Louisville in the 2013 national championship, Webber had to watch from a suite because of the disassociation.
In recent years, the tension between him and the university had seemed to change. Three years ago, Webber was on the sideline for a Michigan football game following an invitation from Jim Harbaugh. He said he was emotional as the crowd cheered.
Webber said he will discuss his experience at Michigan in his upcoming book, “By God’s Grace,” which he believes will allow everyone to move forward when it is released later this year.
“I was the lowest hanging fruit,” Webber said about the school’s investigation. “I had the biggest name. I knew that then, so hopefully some of the things in [the 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.”
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