Fans, former players turn out to support Fisher
NOVI, Mich. (AP) _ Fans and friends, players and former players all poured on the stage. A banner above proclaimed: ``We believe in Steve.″
And embattled Michigan basketball coach Steve Fisher said he was humbled by the show of support as several hundred people attended a rally on his behalf Thursday night.
``I’m smart enough to know this is not a perfect world,″ he told a packed hotel ballroom. ``I’m also smart enough to know we’ve got a tremendously loyal group of Michigan fans.″
The rally, organized by Michigan alum Michael Duggan, the deputy Wayne County executive, was held for fans to show their support of Fisher and the Michigan basketball program amid allegations of recruiting violations.
Fisher did not discuss the investigation during the speech to the crowd, but expressed optimism that the program would persevere.
``We’re going to move on from here and accomplish a great deal,″ he said. ``Life is not fair. Life is not always easy. But life is life, so you live it.″
Michigan athletic director Joe Roberson said in a letter to Fisher in March that he was disappointed in his handling of athletic booster Ed Martin, who is at the center of an internal investigation into the program. The law firm’s findings are expected to be turned over to the NCAA.
According to Michigan’s report to the NCAA in March, Martin attempted to secure an apartment for two Michigan players last summer. In addition, he also offered a player’s family airline tickets. Fisher halted the effort to obtain an apartment, and the player’s family did not accept the tickets, the report said.
The university’s investigation into the basketball program began more than a year ago but so far has revealed only two minor violations involving Martin.
``It’s not been easy,″ Fisher told reporters before his speech. ``I’d be less than honest if I said that it was.″
He also declined to comment on the probe.
``There’s an internal investigation that’s ongoing that we’ll all respond to when we get the results of that,″ he said.
The rally was attended by current Wolverines guard Louis Bullock and former players including Ryan DeKuiper, Antoine Joubert, Garde Thompson, Tim McCormick, former Fab Five member Ray Jackson.
``He blessed me with the opportunity to play basketball at the University of Michigan,″ Jackson said. ``Whatever he needs, I’m here to support him.″
Video messages were also played from former Wolverine Terry Mills and Detroit Pistons coach Doug Collins.
``I think Steve is representative of what college athletics is all about,″ Collins said. ``Let’s all give him our support.″
Speaking to the crowd on behalf of former players, Thompson, Fisher’s first recruit at Michigan, said he believes the coach will be cleared.
``He’s always done it with integrity. He’s always done it honestly,″ Thompson said. ``There’s not a dishonest bone in this man’s body. I know this hurts him, and I know it hurts his family.″