ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN-- As College Basketball's "March Madness" heats up, with the "Sweet 16" round just around the corner, viewers of the four stations of coverage have no doubt seen a Burger King advertisement starring Chris Webber (NBA Hall-of-Famer and former Michigan Wolverine star).
Viewers can now watch the games on 4 networks instead of just one, thanks to a landmark 2010 10.8 billion dollar deal between CBS and Turner Sports. (There is not enough room here to provide mailing addresses for those network companies, but I'm sure they appreciate 'thank you's' and/or donations from viewers).
The Burger King Ad has stirred up some controversy across the Men's College Basketball scene and the University of Michigan, but mostly among small-time sports bloggers and aspiring satire columnists.
"We stand by our proud sponsorship of Burger King and their entire tasty fast-food menu," said Mark Emmert, NCAA president. "We have no problem displaying our logo and partnership in such an ad, which really just aims to inform people about a delicious new menu choice."
The ad features Chris Webber, donning a conspicuous yellow "#4" jersey with no logo.
"People who think that it's his Michigan jersey from his college days are reading into things," said Emmert.
By 2002--after a long and sweeping investigation involving the NCCA, as well as the Big-Ten Conference, the FBI, IRS, and DOJ--the University of Michigan faced harsh sanctions (both self-imposed and from the NCAA) as a result of former players' relationships to booster Ed Martin (convicted of running an illegal gambling operation and money laundering).
Webber was the most high profile player involved in the 'shady dealings'. The "Fab-Five's" memorable Final Four seasons were forfeited, along with a a season or two before(and/or after)the Fab Five that nobody cares about.
If you don't want to read the previous two paragraphs the ESPN 30 for 30 "Fab Five" production is highly recommended.
"I was a bit shocked that Webber and the NCAA were joint partners with Burger King on my TV screen," said an unnamed University of Michigan student. Pressed for further response he added, "They'll still get my business. For the most part I like them better than McDonalds."
Former Michigan players who were not involved in the scandal but were affected by the sanctions and vacated/forfeited games could not be reached for comment. One can only infer from their attitudes towards Webber in the past that they might not be 'happy campers'. Their fast-food eating habits are not known.
"Water under the bridge," said Emmert, speaking for the entire NCAA. "The scandal was long ago. We and Burger King are making a lot of money. Michigan fans and reporters like you asking loaded questions are jus' gonna have'ta get over it".
Webber got back to us with a prepared statement:
"BK said they'd pay me for my services and I was like 'sure dog, I'll do your ad'. Anyone who's pissed just needs to take a Time-Out and chill."