Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel dropped a bombshell via Twitter for Gopher fans on Friday morning, reporting that former Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman is back on campus and enrolled as a full-time student, signaling his desire to return to the football team for the 2020 season.
Source: Minnesota star WR Rashod Bateman wants to play for Gophers in 2020. He’s back on campus and enrolled as a full-time student. He’s signed with agent and finds himself in the same scenario as other high-profile players around the country.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 18, 2020
Bateman and other stars wanting to return will need clearance from the NCAA for the unique circumstances of this time. Bateman opted out in early August amid the lack of clarity of the season and uncertain health environment.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 18, 2020
The former First-Team All-Big Ten selection and last season’s Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year had opted out of the 2020 season back on Aug. 4, citing the uncertainty of playing under the cloud of COVID-19 ahead of a potential first round selection in next spring’s NFL Draft. The Big Ten postponed the fall season a week after his announcement but reversed their decision on Wednesday of this week, opting to start an eight-game season in mid-October due to the availability of daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screenings, and an enhanced data-driven approach to making decisions about practice and/or competition.
The biggest hurdle for Bateman returning to the football team for the 2020 season is that he signed with an agent after opting out. Not only will he need a waiver from NCAA to return under special circumstances, he will more than likely need to repay back any monetary benefits from his agent in order to regain his amateur status. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman wrote earlier this week that attorney Tom Mars believes players like Bateman have a strong case:
“The fact that the commissioner said the decision will ‘not be revisited’ and that these guys relied on that statement would allow the NCAA to bring these guys back without setting any precedent that would create a problem down the road,” Mars told The Athletic on Wednesday. “These are extraordinary circumstances that are never going to occur again. Because the Big Ten commissioner was so definitive, with no contradictory statement ever being made by the conference until today, there is a unique flexibility for the NCAA to allow these players to come back — including those who accepted insignificant benefits.
Bateman’s return would certainly be a boon to a Gophers squad that was going to have to replace both the production of both him and Tyler Johnson, who became the first wide receivers from the same team to be named First-Team All-Big Ten in the same season.
Head coach P.J. Fleck released an official statement Friday afternoon:
We will keep you posted as the situation evolves.