Team will be eligible for 2004 tournaments

Updated: October 1, 2003, 12:30 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan basketball team has won its appeal and will be eligible to play in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, according to reports.

The school has been informed that its appeal of the NCAA's postseason ban was successful, sources at the university have told the Detroit Free Press and The Associated Press.

Here's a salute and let's play a song -- it's "Hail to the Victors" time in Ann Arbor! Michigan's basketball program reportedly has won its appeal and will be eligible for the 2004 postseason. That's right, the Maize and Blue will be eligible for the NCAA or NIT.

Michigan got a raw deal with the punishment inflicted by the NCAA's infractions committee last May. It wasn't fair to penalize current Michigan players for problems that went back a decade or more to the Fab Five days. It's fantastic to see that justice has now been done.

The Wolverines deserve to play for the prize this year. Those kids showed a lot of class in the way they performed last year despite being ineligible for tournament play. They played every possession like they were playing for the national championship. That's a tribute to their coach, Tommy Amaker. More...

An announcement will be made Thursday afternoon. The decision to overturn the ban handed down in May was made by the NCAA's infractions appeals committee, according to the sources.

Michigan spokesman Bruce Madej declined comment when reached by AP. Coach Tommy Amaker, athletic director Bill Martin and NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes did not immediately return phone messages from AP.

The decision was made by the NCAA's infractions appeals committee, which overturned the postseason-related portion of the infractions committee's May ruling, the newspaper said.

Amaker had been calling the appeal a long shot all along, according to a Detroit News report.

"Those appeals don't usually have a high rate of success," Amaker said in May. "But I do feel it was right to fight on behalf of our current student-athletes."

Michigan's successful appeal concludes all NCAA procedures regarding the scandal involving Ed Martin, who died earlier this year. Martin had been accused of making illicit cash payments totaling $616,000 to former players Chris Webber, Maurice Taylor, Louis Bullock and Robert Traylor.

The ban on participation in the NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament was the only NCAA sanction Michigan appealed. Other sanctions, including four years of probation and the loss of one scholarship in each of four seasons, remain in effect.

Expectations for last season's Michigan team were low because of an apparent lack of talent and motivation. The Wolverines lost their first six games but staged a remarkable turnaround under second-year coach Amaker, winning 13 straight games for the first time since 1987-88.

Michigan finished with its best season in five years, going 17-13 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten and earning a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The 2003-04 Wolverines are expected to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Michigan officials hoped the penalties they imposed on their program in November 2002 would appease the NCAA.

Those penalties included a postseason ban for 2003; forfeiture of 112 regular-season and tournament victories from five seasons, plus its victory in the 1992 NCAA semifinal; returning $450,000 to the NCAA for money earned from the NCAA tournament during those years; and placing itself on two years' probation.

It also removed four banners from Crisler Arena: for the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours, 1997 NIT title and 1998 Big Ten tournament title.

Martin, a self-described Wolverines basketball booster, pleaded guilty in 2002 to conspiracy to launder money and told federal prosecutors he took gambling money, combined it with other funds and lent $616,000 to Webber and the other players. He was awaiting sentencing when he died in February at age 69 of a pulmonary embolism.

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