The basketball program announced today that Austin Hatch will move to a medical scholarship and transition to a role as a student assistant. This means that while Hatch's playing career is over, he stays on full scholarship and enjoys all the other benefits of being part of the program. From the official release, which was accompanied by a longer feature:
"This is, and has been, a very difficult decision; one that we have been discussing with Austin over the last few months," said Beilein. "Together, we made this decision at the end of the season and have been waiting for approval from the Big Ten for his status change. With the request for a medical exemption waiver approved (April 27), we are ready to move forward with the next steps in Austin's career."
"Over the past year, we closely observed Austin's academic and athletic progress. In the end, Austin and our staff agree that the waiver is the proper next step. This change allows Austin to devote the necessary time he needs to be successful in his studies and obtain a Michigan degree. We also wanted to be sure we continued our commitment to Austin keeping his full scholarship in place for the next three years. This waiver allows for both.
"What makes this move equally important is, with NCAA rules, it allows Austin to continue to be a valuable asset to our team as a leader, mentor and assistant. As a student assistant coach, Austin will be allowed to continue to be engaged in our practice and training and to travel with us when it can fit into his academic schedule. The only real change will be that he will no longer be on our active roster or allowed to play in games.
"Austin remains an important part of our program and culture, even if we do not have that chance to see him compete again."
"Basketball has always been a huge part of my life; however, it is what I play, not who I am," said Hatch. "It was a goal of mine to return to the game that I love so much and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to play for Michigan. After all that I have been through, it was a dream come true for me to put on a Michigan jersey and get into a game at Crisler Center.
"As I have progressed through this first season, I know that I am not where I want to be, both academically and athletically. My priority is academics and I feel that it is in my best interest to devote more time to my studies. This decision honors my father, and it is something that I know he would agree with and be proud of me for making.
"Coach Beilein, the staff and my teammates have been so understanding of my situation. They have supported me through everything I have been through and I now view them as part of my extended family. My words cannot, and would not, adequately express my gratitude for all they have done and continue to do for me.
"I am honored to be, and will be, a part of the Michigan Basketball program going forward -- in whatever capacity my studies allow me to be. I am a Michigan Wolverine for life. Again, I am honored and truly grateful that I am in a position to say that."
Hatch played in five games during his freshman season, tallying points in an exhibition against Wayne State and a regular-season game against Coppin State.
Hatch's move to a medical scholarship opens up one scholarship for the 2015-16 season, and Michigan is in continued pursuit of 2015 prospects Jaylen Brown and Kenny Williams. The Wolverines have been rumored to be in Brown's top two, while Williams is planning an official visit. (Max Bielfeldt's imminent departure also opened up a spot, which was taken by Moritz Wagner.)
Ramifications for next season aside, it was an honor and a pleasure to cover the team as Hatch took the court last season, and it's great to see he'll continue to be an integral part of the program moving forward.