Bateman back for Minnesota; no Parsons for Penn State

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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Minnesota is getting its star wide receiver back for an abbreviated Big Ten season. Penn State will not be so fortunate with its All-America linebacker.

Minnesota announced Wednesday that Rashod Bateman was cleared to play this season by the NCAA and Big Ten after opting out in August. At Penn State, coach James Franklin closed the door on All-America linebacker Micah Parsons returning to the Nittany Lions.

The Big Ten postponed its fall football season on Aug. 11, then announced two weeks ago that it would play after all, starting the weekend of Oct. 23. Both Bateman and Parsons opted out of the 2020 season before the Big Ten postponed amid concerns about the pandemic.

“I want to thank the NCAA, Big Ten and our compliance office for working together and coming to a resolution that restored Rashod’s eligibility and allows him to play this fall,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said.

Bateman caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. In coming back, Bateman announced he will wear jersey number zero for the Gophers, explaining: “Because there is zero tolerance for racism in this culture, and there is zero doubt about what this program stands for.”

“These past few months have been uncertain and challenging, challenging for myself, this university and our society,” Bateman said in a video posted on his Instagram account. “The Row the Boat culture has changed my life forever. I know that to get through tough times, you have to keep your oar in the water, and I feel the safest and the best place to move forward is here at the University of Minnesota. We’ve got work left to be done, as a team and as a society.”

Franklin told reporters Parsons had interest in returning to college football but after discussions with the player and his family, it was not going to happen.

“He had been gone for so long that it made it a little bit more complicated to work through,” Franklin said.

Parsons was expected to be one of the best players in the country this season and is a likely high first-round pick in April’s NFL draft. He had 109 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore last season.

Other Big Ten schools have welcomed back stars.

Ohio State is getting back All-Americans Shaun Wade, a defensive back, and Wyatt Davis, a guard. Michigan tackle Jaylen Mayfield, who opted out in August after the Big Ten’s postponement, is eligible to play for the Wolverines. Purdue All-America receiver Rondale Moore, who opted out early like Parsons and Bateman, was cleared to play for the Boilermakers last week.

In the Pac-12, Oregon has been hit hardest by opt outs and it does not appear that the Ducks will be getting any of their departed stars back. All-America offensive tackle Penei Sewell has declared for the draft along with defensive backs Deommodore Lenoir, Thomas Graham and Jevon Holland.

Southern California coach Clay Helton recently told reporters he had not ruled out the return of defensive tackle Jay Tufele and offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.

“Those conversations are ongoing,” Helton said.

Big Ten on hold until questions answered

Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The University of Wisconsin chancellor said Tuesday that Big Ten football will remain on hold until there are answers to questions about COVID-19 testing and tracing, along with possible long-term heart issues related to the coronavirus.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank said once the Big Ten university leaders have their concerns addressed “we will try to plan a delayed season.”

A month after postponing games, conference leaders are considering playing a fall season after all. There were weekend meetings on a plan to begin play as soon as mid-October.

Blank, appearing at a congressional hearing on compensation for college athletes, was asked by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) about the Big Ten’s decision last month and whether the conference might reverse course.

“There were several main reasons for that,” Blank said. “One was that we were uncertain we could do the level of testing and contact tracing that we needed to keep athletes safe. Secondly, there was this growing evidence about heart-related myocarditis and that evidence was uncertain and it wasn’t clear what it means and we wanted to know more. There were a few other minor reasons.”

She would not predict which way a vote to return to play would go.

“Decisions within the Big Ten are largely majority based decisions, but I’ll be honest, we almost always decide everything by consensus. We very rarely take votes,” Blank said.

A court filing earlier this month disclosed that Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 in favor of postponing all fall sports. Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State voted against the move.

When the next decision comes from the Big Ten was unclear, though KETV in Omaha posted video Tuesday of University of Nebraska President Ted Carter saying, “We’re getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight,” before he spoke at an unrelated news conference.

Carter later told KLKN in Lincoln that statement was taken out of context.

“When there is any news to share or confirm regarding any Big Ten board decision, it will be announced by the Big Ten,” University of Nebraska spokeswoman Deb Fiddelke said.

Memphis-Houston set for Friday postponed

Brandon Dahlberg / The Commercial Appeal
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Memphis’ prime-time game against Houston set for Friday night has been postponed.

The American Athletic Conference announced the decision Saturday, a day after Memphis paused football practice and all group activities for the team because a “number of individuals” with the program had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Tigers already lost a game at Purdue previously scheduled for Saturday when the Big Ten canceled its fall football season Aug. 11. The conference says the Houston game will be rescheduled for a later date.

Memphis officials say the positive tests and contact tracing indicate most of the cases are linked to social events outside of team activities. Combined with contract tracing, Memphis says a “significant number” are in quarantine in keeping with CDC guidelines. Officials say there are no serious cases but that all players and staff affected are being closely monitored.

The Tigers opened the season by beating Arkansas State 37-24 on Sept. 5. Their next scheduled game is Sept. 25 at UT San Antonio.