Rashod Bateman's return changes complexion of B1G, college football in 2020
MINNEAPOLIS — We don’t say it often, so here we go:
Good work, NCAA.
Not just in the way you finally had a positive impact on your biggest sport during the COVID-19 pandemic. But that you expedited the process of clearing Rashod Bateman’s return to Minnesota.
This was the right decision. You can’t have your main power brokers — including Big Ten presidents and chancellors — cancel a season only to change their minds due to “better data,” then prohibit a student-athlete from one of their institutions for similarly reversing course. You can’t grant immediate transfers and academic waivers for “serious medical issues or other personal hardship” then tell a kid who opted out due to a pandemic and signed with an agent his situation doesn’t qualify under those parameters.
You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. The folks based in Indy have been known to do that, but this time, they got it right.
And they did it fast. News of Bateman’s intent to return broke Sept. 18. Less than 2 weeks later, we have a decision.
If only the NCAA could be so swift in other matters, from eligibility to Name, Image and Likeness, for starters.
“Rashod represents everything that is right about college football, and I am filled with joy for him,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement Wednesday. “He was always wanted to be a Gopher and now has the opportunity to wear a Minnesota jersey again. Rashod is one of the best football players in the nation, but he’s an even better person, teammate and son.”
Agent 0 checking in. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, Let’s ROW ❤️ pic.twitter.com/3VCdHSMKCR
— Rashod Bateman (@R_bateman2) September 30, 2020
Bateman had been taking classes and practicing with the Gophers, who open Oct. 24 at home against Michigan in the Battle for the Little Brown Jug.
There was likely some back and forth between the NCAA’s suits assigned to these types of cases and Bateman’s camp. Did he accept any money from agent Blake Baratz? Is this indeed justifiable seeing as Bateman opted out before B1G leaders voted to postpone fall sports until the spring, only to bring football back a month and change later?
These types of agreements usually involve the athlete planning, in writing, to compensate the agency a percentage of the player’s salary. What type of details were in the contract between Bateman and Baratz’s Institute for Athletes?
Those details will likely remain private. But the point is, by the spirit of the laws of amateurism, Bateman hadn’t yet delved fully into the professional waters.
And with a situation as unprecedented as that of COVID-19, there was no virtuous reason for the NCAA to keep him from changing his mind.
Thanks to NIL and potential endorsements, the time is coming when money will be given to players like Bateman well before they reach the League, anyway. Why pretend anything different?
The fact that Bateman announced his return in a video tweet is the perfect example of how this works in 2020. Right or wrong, there is more power to the player than ever.
“These past few months have been uncertain and challenging,” Bateman says in said video, “challenging for myself, this university and this society. … I feel the safest and best place to move forward is here at the University of Minnesota.”
This decision should open the door for other Power 5 players who opted out and may or may not have signed with an agent to return, should they so choose. Good.
It also re-legitimizes the Gophers’ hopes of winning the B1G West during this coronavirus-delayed, empty-stadium season. Bateman, a projected first-round NFL draft pick, produced more than 1,200 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns last season. He was the B1G’s 2nd-best receiver behind teammate Tyler Johnson, now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s just something that we’re really excited about because he wanted to do it for the team, not for Rashod,” Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan said recently. “He’s done everything the right way.”
Bateman will even wear a new number, that goose-egg you may have seen on other jerseys so far this season, that wasn’t previously allowed.
“This season I will be wearing No. 0 because there is zero tolerance for racism in this culture,” Bateman said in his video. “And there is zero doubt about what this program stands for.”
Wednesday’s news is good for the game. Teams that are as full-strength as possible not only provide depth during COVID but a better product for fans, television and the schools themselves.
Things are starting to come together. The prayer now becomes that guys like Bateman can stay healthy and the B1G’s season goes off without too many hitches.