The Michigan Fab Five were regarded as the best college recruiting class in the nation in 1991, when No.1 overall recruit Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson all signed with the Maize and Blue. The group accomplished a lot together in two years in Ann Arbor, including consecutive NCAA title game appearances. They would also be the center of one of the most infamous scandals in college basketball.
A bombshell new book was released focusing on one of the most important and highly publicized scandals in college basketball history, which involved super booster Ed Martin. The book, titled “The Booster”, reveals the never-before-told account of the sport’s most infamous case; how Martin and the University of Michigan’s Fab Five exposed the hypocrisy of the NCAA, and in the process, laid bare the exploitation of teenage athletes by elite colleges and the sports apparel industry.
The book’s author is Carl Martin, the son of the late Ed Martin, an autoworker and numbers operator who became deeply involved in the lives of prep basketball players, several of whom went on to NCAA and NBA stardom.
“This book is about how my father was a supporter of many basketball players,” said Martin. “Specifically, the two Fab Five members from Detroit, Webber and Rose; how he developed a relationship with them, what type of support he gave to them, how he derived the money to support them, and what the outcome was of that support.”
Ed Martin had financially supported Webber and Jalen Rose while they attended Detroit Country Day and Southwestern, respectively. He later befriended the other three members of the Fab FIve, King, Howard and Jackson. The elder Martin was said to have given Webber, his godson, and his family upwards of $500,000 in the six years they had a healthy relationship. Martin was said to have given Rose close to $60,000. Once the players reached the NBA, their relationship with Martin became distant.
“It’s a known fact that the NCAA earns billions of dollars from the athletic power of these student athletes,” said Martin. “They (student-athletes) don’t derive any financial gain from their playing but the NCAA does, as well as the coaches. That’s why I call it the exploitation of the athletes and I believe that my father was more of a helper to Chris and Jalen, than actually hurting them and others.”
“When you’re hungry and broke and watching everybody else make money off you but you, I don’t think it’s wrong for a kid to get help,” King said in an excerpt from the book. “I think that’s only fair.”
A freak automobile roll-over accident in 1996 involving Michigan players Maurice Taylor, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, and highly-prized recruit Mateen Cleaves jump-started an FBI investigation into a tangled web of illegal sports recruiting practices and deeply entrenched numbers games in Detroit auto plants. Investigators uncovered evidence that Martin had paid high school and college players and their families tens of thousands of dollars to put food on their tables and literally put clothes on their backs.
In April 1999, the federal government conducted multiple raids and eventually indicted the Martins and Webber while several others received subpoenas to appear before a grand jury. Carl Martin, who had followed his father into the numbers game, refused to testify against his father, and served 15 months in the federal prison system.
Ed Martin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money but died before he could be sent to prison. His death apparently weakened the government’s case against Webber, who was indicted for perjury but pled guilty to a lesser charge. Webber avoided prison by paying a fine and doing community service. The NCAA also forced the University of Michigan to vacate multiple victories and titles.
Martin said he wrote “The Booster” to honor a deathbed request of his late mother, Hilda, to tell the full story of his father’s contribution to the Fab Five and other players, whether good or bad.
“My father was no saint, no Robin Hood, nor was he a one-dimensional villain in a black hat,” Carl Martin said. “His story deserved to be told without the taint or stigma. The media portrayed him as a villain and the reader of the book will be able to make their own decision based on the contents of this book.”
The book is $29.95 and is available now at TheBooster.net.