Efforts are being made to see if star receiver Rashod Bateman can return to the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team for the 2020 season.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck issued a statement Friday, Sept. 18, saying, “Rashod initially opted out because of personal health concerns surrounding COVID-19, but now feels comfortable rejoining the team after the Big Ten announced the safety measures it was taking to protect student-athletes.”

University of Minnesota records show Bateman is enrolled for the fall semester after having signing with an agent in August. The rising junior’s decision to turn pro and focus on the 2021 NFL draft came a week before the Big Ten postponed its previous plan for a season on Aug. 11.

Since Bateman signed with an agent, he is ineligible based on NCAA rules, but there is a way back in through the Student-Athlete Reinstatement process. With other players seeking avenues back into college football amid fluctuating schedules with the coronavirus pandemic, it will be interesting to see how the NCAA handles these waiver processes.

“The process for him to be granted a waiver to compete this fall is a bit more complex,” Fleck’s statement continued. “But our compliance office is working closely with the NCAA and Big Ten to come to a resolution. It is our hope that Rashod will be able to represent Minnesota as a student-athlete this fall.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

When the Big Ten announced its new plan for a season, Fleck and others said Bateman would not be able to come back. Fleck said on a KFAN radio show that he was ‘half-kidding” about his first text message to Bateman saying: “Are you sure?”

On the Big Ten Network, Fleck said: “There are a lot of things that are involved in that after somebody declares. And what they’ve actually taken and things they’ve done as they’ve gone forward with their agency.”

But as ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren pointed out Wednesday, “If that player wants to come back, one factor in the reinstatement depends on what was exchanged” between the player and agent.

Bateman was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2019, finishing with 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns last season after setting Gophers freshman receiving records in 2017. On KFAN Wednesday, Fleck talked about Bateman’s impressive two years in the past tense.

“We are so thankful for the time we got with him; it was a short amount of time,” Fleck said.

Bateman, who has asthma, cited heath concerns tied to the respiratory illness when he made his initial decision in early August.

The Gophers already were dealing with the departure of senior all-Big Ten first team receiver Tyler Johnson, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round in the 2020 NFL draft.

If Bateman is able to come back, he would be the headliner of a receiver corps that includes Chris Autman-Bell, Demetrius Douglas and two freshmen hyped by Fleck: Doug Emilien and Daniel Jackson.