COLUMN: Jalen Rose needs to shut up about scandal

Jalen Rose is at it again.

The guy who has spent the last two decades pretending that he was a victim and not a perpetrator of the biggest recruiting scandal in the history of college basketball as part of the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five” is calling for his former coach at U-M, Steve Fisher, to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Fisher was fired by Michigan in the wake of the Fab Five scandal, and went on to prove that he is indeed a quality basketball coach with a stellar career at San Diego State.

After guiding Michigan to its only national championship in 1989 as interim coach, Fisher took the Wolverines to back-to-back title game appearances with the Fab Five in 1992 and 1993, losing both. Those appearances, as well as 113 victories, however, were vacated by the university after federal investigators discovered that four members of those Michigan teams, including Rose himself, received more than $600,000 from a longtime booster and bookmaker, Ed Martin.

Fisher was hired to coach San Diego State in 1999, which he turned from a basketball laughingstock to one of the most respected mid-major programs in the country.

Fisher was 386-209 at SDSU, leading the Aztecs to eight NCAA tournament berths and five in the NIT. His 2010-11 team went a school-best 34-3 and made its first Sweet-16 appearance.

“He absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and if it doesn’t happen, it goes back to where he was implicated in something he was not guilty of,” Rose told espn.com following Fisher’s retirement as coach San Diego State this week.

A case can be made for his Hall of Fame credentials, but Rose didn’t stop there.

He segued from praising Fisher to flinging crap at Fab Five co-conspirator Chris Webber, with whom Rose has had a longstanding and very public feud for the past few years.

“Chris Webber didn’t own what he did and still hasn’t apologized,” Rose said, “and there’s been a lot of collateral damage because of that, the No. 1 person being Steve Fisher.

“He wasn’t the person who lied to the grand jury. He’s not the person not choosing to apologize or reconcile any of that. Yet what (Fisher) accomplished doesn’t get recognized.”

Fisher was not personally implicated in the scandal, cooperated with authorities and nothing has emerged since to suggest that he was in any way responsible for it.

But if Rose has his way, Fisher will retroactively reap the benefits of it, and that is wrong.

The University of Michigan tried to claim the moral high ground by taking down any banners raised for teams in the Fab Five era, and shunned the players involved. Michigan knows that those results were tainted, that they never should have happened in the first place and therefore are not legitimate.

Whether he directly participated in the illegal recruiting of the Fab Five or not, Fisher coached players he had no business coaching, since they were at Michigan solely because they were bought with Ed Martin money, and won games he had no business winning.

Rose and some other Michigan boosters now want to minimize the scandal, to sweep it under the rug and put the banners back up in Crisler Center, as if the off-court crimes that led to the on-court success somehow don’t count.

I could certainly see Fisher in the Hall of Fame based strictly on his accomplishments at San Diego State. He has seemed to take the correct approach to his time at Michigan, saying as little about it as possible over the course of his career at SDSU.

But Rose needs to climb down off of his soap box, and can the lectures on right and wrong. He was undeniably guilty of subverting the NCAA rules that every other school adheres to, at its peril. He was unquestionably part of a team that, had those rules been followed, would almost certainly not have existed.

While it may not be fair to paint Fisher with the brush of scandal, it would also not be fair for his case for the Hall of Fame to include games coaching a team that should never have been.

So for Rose to wag his finger at anyone else, even a fellow accomplice in the Fab Five scandal, is laughably self-serving and oblivious.

And if Michigan wants to maintain its well polished reputation, it will tell Rose to just shut up.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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