ANN ARBOR — Devin Gardner will have not one, but two seasons of eligibility remaining with the University of Michigan football program.
The athletic department announced Tuesday that the Big Ten Conference approved a medical hardship waiver for Gardner, granting the junior a fifth year of eligibility with the Wolverines.
“I feel great about it,” Gardner said on a video posted to MGoBlue.com, the Michigan athletic department’s Web site. “I’m just happy to be able to help the team as long as I can.
“Spring ball is about to start and I’m really focused and ready to play this season first.”
In December, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said the program had applied for a medical redshirt for Gardner, retroactive to his freshman season. Gardner played in three games that season before he sustained a back injury.
Hoke said in December that the petition was submitted to the Big Ten and that he anticipated its approval, which would allow Gardner to return for the 2014 season.
IN THE HOUSE BLOG: How will Gardner use 5th-year eligibility?
A Big Ten spokesman explained via email that the conference handles approval or denial of medical hardship waivers.
If a student-athlete meets the NCAA criteria for a hardship waiver — either sustaining an injury in the first half of the season or competing in no more than 30 percent of the season, whichever is greater — the institution assembles a waiver, which includes a medical statement from a designated team physician and medical documentation, and sends it to the conference office for processing and verification.
The Big Ten Sports Medicine Subcommittee on Eligibility reviews and certifies the waiver, then grants it if a student-athlete’s case meets NCAA criteria and if the illness or injury was incapacitating in nature.
Gardner came to Michigan in 2010 from Inkster (Mich.) High School as a quarterback but began the 2012 season at wide receiver, where he had 16 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
A week after Denard Robinson sustained an injury to the ulnar nerve in his right arm in a loss Oct. 27 at Nebraska, Gardner moved to quarterback, where he played for the rest of the season. Gardner completed 75 of 126 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns and was intercepted five times.
Michigan opens spring practices March 16 in Ann Arbor, with Gardner as the Wolverines’ incumbent at quarterback, ahead of redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy.
“You approach spring like you approach every phase of getting ready for the season,” Gardner said. “You approach it with a focused mind and ready to compete and win football games.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.