John Beilein discusses Chris Webber’s return to Michigan on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Ann Arbor.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Former Michigan basketball star Chris Webber returned to the school this weekend and received a warm ovation.
On the football field at Michigan Stadium.
Webber, who was back in Ann Arbor for his first public appearance since his 10-year disassociation with the program ended in 2013, was Jim Harbaugh’s honorary football captain for Saturday’s game against Penn State.
Speaking with the Rich Eisen Show on Monday, Webber expressed his gratitude toward Harbaugh and the football program.
“I don’t know if I have the words, humbling. Just appreciate coach Harbaugh so much for letting me come speak to the team and talk to those young guys and, in some way, get to see the revenge tour up close,” Webber said. “I’m just really thankful to coach Harbaugh to invite me (as a captain) and then to be out there with my father to flip the coin … there’s really no words for it, it was just cool, man.
“It was surreal, that’s all I can say. It was a great feeling. But using the word great just doesn’t do it justice. I’ve been looking for the word or phrase to sum it up. … To be shown love, it’s just incredible. An awesome day.”
Webber spent time with the football program as its guest Friday and Saturday. He did not, however, visit with Michigan basketball coach John Beilein.
The Wolverines had an exhibition game at the Crisler Center on Friday night while Webber was in town, though the former Fab Five star did not make an appearance. Beilein, who has reached out to Webber on behalf of the basketball program before, said earlier in the week he had hoped to meet with Webber at some point during the weekend.
That reunion, between Webber and Michigan basketball, did not take place.
Webber did not speak with reporters in Ann Arbor this week.
“We did not intersect. But I think it was a great step in the right direction that he was here,” Beilein said Monday. “Whatever we can do to keep those different entities moving together and moving closer together with a reunion of every basketball program we’ve had here in the past. It’s all good.”
Webber was disassociated from the university for 10 years due to fallout from the Ed Martin recruiting scandal that rocked the program.
In addition to the ban handed down by the NCAA, Webber was eventually ordered to pay $100,025 in 2005 on a misdemeanor contempt charge for lying to a federal grand jury about money he’d received from Martin prior to his entry into the NBA.
Chris Webber shares his thoughts a couple of days after his first known visit back to University of Michigan since his disassociation ban was lifted.
Turner Sports, Detroit Free Press
He declined to participate in ESPN’s documentary about the Fab Five that aired in 2010, later claiming he was working on his own book and documentary (neither of which has been released).
While it wasn’t a full reunion, Webber said he had no words for the overall response he got from U-M fans in and around Michigan Stadium this weekend. Calling Saturday “a wonderful moment.”
“I’ve always accepted love from the fans. There’s no way I cannot represent Michigan because I am Michigan,” Webber told Eisen. “Just like the 15th man on the basketball team is Michigan. Just like the student in the English department is Michigan. It’s been a complicated relationship, but anyone who has gone to Michigan (knows) it’s more than being an employee at the University of Michigan. … It’s just different.
“Walking around Michigan all these years, being in Michigan all these years has been awesome. My whole life. It’s nothing I’ve ever once shied away from or ever not wanted to be a part of. Coming back and being a part of it is awesome. I hope this isn’t coming across as any other way than being grateful or humble. An awesome, awesome moment.”
Webber also made a point to tell Eisen he wanted to keep the entire weekend as much about the football players as possible.
And said he hopes to make it back to future football games.
“I told the guys ‘it’s all about them’ this weekend,” Webber said. “I was them, at the end of the day, I’m still an athlete. So it’s ‘you can inspire me and then get the hell out of the way’ that was my goal. The love I received from the fans, there’s nothing that’s better than that. That’s who I played for, did it for, that’s who won with us, cheered with us and cried with us when we lost.
“It was like I was a freshman and a sophomore all over again. … I was re-living those moments, I had a great time. … I think, and I hope, this is the first of a long relationship. That’s what it has to be about. A relationship. Not just about a handshake. That’s why it was really cool that a friend and an ex-athlete, an alum there, kind of helped to start (to) build that bridge. Hopefully, it’s the start of a (new) beginning.”
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.