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Report: Webber, Taylor accepted thousands of dollars from booster

May 31, 1997

DETROIT (AP) _ University of Michigan basketball standouts Chris Webber and Maurice Taylor each received more than $100,000 from a school athletic booster while they played for the Wolverines, the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday.

Citing sources familiar with the dealings, the Free Press reported that the two players accepted the money from Ed Martin, a booster at the center of an NCAA investigation into the program.

One source cited specific dollar figures for each player, but the amounts could not be corroborated, the newspaper reported.

Webber plays for the Washington Bullets. Taylor has one more year of eligibility left at Michigan but announced in April that he would forego it and enter the NBA draft.

The sources also told the newspaper that Webber repaid the money, with interest, after turning pro.

Neither Webber nor Taylor would discuss their relationship with Martin with the newspaper. But Webber’s lawyer, L. Fallasha Erwin, denied the allegations.

``Mr. Webber has never received any large sums of money from Mr. Martin, and a report of such would be totally and unequivocally false,″ Erwin said.

Taylor’s lawyer, Jerome Pesick, said Friday that he could not comment because he had been unable to fully review the reports with the family. He did not immediately return telephone messages Saturday.

Martin, 63, of Detroit, was banned by the university in March from further contact with its sports programs after an investigation showed he was involved in two violations of NCAA rules.

One week after banning Martin, the university hired a Kansas law firm known for helping schools under NCAA scrutiny to conduct a new investigation. Results will be turned over to the NCAA.

Sources with knowledge of Martin’s dealings also told the newspaper that Webber and Taylor weren’t the only players who received cash and other financial support from the booster.

In separate interviews, four people with connections to Martin and the players said Martin also gave money to at least six other current or former major-college basketball players from the Detroit area, all but one of whom attended Michigan, the Free Press reported.

The newspaper said its sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they fear retaliation from Martin or the players. The sources have no relationships with each other, but their descriptions of Martin’s activities were consistent, the report said.

Martin, a retired electrician for Ford Motor Co., would not comment on Saturday’s report, but previously has denied allegations that he gave money to players.

Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations, said university officials _ including coach Steve Fisher _ could not discuss the subject.

``We are conducting an active investigation into these matters, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time,″ Harrison said. ``At the time we conclude our investigation, we will be able to comment more completely.″

Although most of the people interviewed would not allow their names to be published, a woman who said she was a former girlfriend of Taylor’s agreed to let the newspaper use her name.

Verna Gallant was unable to confirm the details that other people provided. She said Taylor got money, although she didn’t know who gave it to him.

``But I’ve heard him say, like, friends of the program. ... He always brags: `I don’t have to pay for anything,‴ Gallant said.

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