The NCAA decided Friday to waive in Patterson's case its normal rule that requires non-graduated transfers to sit out a year before returning to the playing field. Michigan and Ole Miss said in an announcement Friday that the two athletic departments worked together during the past week to create a waiver request that they both agreed was accurate and one that took advantage of recently adapted NCAA rules to allow Patterson to get on the field this fall.
"There are a lot of people who worked really hard to help make this transfer process a success. I want to thank Coach [Jim] Harbaugh, the University of Michigan and the NCAA for allowing me to continue my education and football career at one of the best universities in the country," Patterson said in a statement released Friday.
"A special thanks to Michigan's Compliance Staff and to Tom Mars for his personal guidance for me and my family during this time. With this decision behind us, my family and I are fully focused on the upcoming season. My teammates and I are always committed to competing at the highest level and winning championships. Go Blue!"
The new waiver, which used an NCAA amendment passed earlier this month that takes a player's academic standing into account when applying to play immediately, put to rest Ole Miss' previous objections to Patterson's reasons for transferring.
"Both schools are ready to move forward and appreciate the assistance of the NCAA staff in bringing this matter to a resolution," the two athletic departments said in a joint statement. "While the process has been complex at times, the solution was simple -- two flagship universities and the NCAA staff working together with a focus on student-athlete well-being."
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said he reached out to Michigan officials last week to try to work out a resolution regarding Patterson's eligibility.
"Our biggest thing was we wanted to work with Michigan directly," Bjork said. "We were able to do that and reach a resolution. We've admitted all along that our program has gone through some challenges. While Shea was here, we had a coaching change in July. If that impacted his well-being and he didn't want to be here, we wish him the best and didn't want to stand in the way of it."
Bjork told ESPN that Ole Miss hasn't received waiver requests for any other players who transferred to other schools once NCAA penalties were announced. Ole Miss can't play in the postseason in 2018 and was hit with scholarship reductions when the NCAA penalized it in December after the NCAA found the program, under former coach Hugh Freeze, guilty of lacking institutional control and fostering "an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting."
Patterson, currently with his new teammates on a team-sponsored trip to Paris, is expected to compete with redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters and others for the starting job in Ann Arbor this fall. He passed for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns as a starter in the first seven games of 2017 for Ole Miss before a leg injury ended his season in late October.
Michigan passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton said last week that Patterson was an obvious "playmaker" who shouldn't have any problem catching up to his competition when it comes to understanding Michigan's playbook and offensive schemes. Hamilton said all of the team's quarterbacks were getting equal reps during spring practice this past month, and he did not have a timeline for when coaches would decide on a pecking order.
"If you watched any of his film, it's obvious he can extend plays with his legs and he can make all the throws," Hamilton said.
Patterson transferred to Michigan in December shortly after the NCAA decided to ban Ole Miss. He applied for immediate eligibility in late February. He practiced with the team throughout March and April while waiting on a decision from the NCAA. Hamilton said the uncertainty about Patterson's situation didn't change the way they approached practice this spring.
The Ole Miss athletic department told the NCAA earlier this month it didn't support Patterson's original request because officials believed the basis of his claim -- that former coach Hugh Freeze persuaded him and others to stay at Ole Miss last year by lying about the scope and potential punishment of the NCAA's investigation into the program -- was untrue. Those claims weren't included in the new waiver request submitted this week.
Thomas Mars, an attorney who has helped Patterson and several of the other Ole Miss players through the transfer process, said hearing the quarterback's reaction to being granted eligibility was one of the most rewarding experiences of his legal career. He said he was looking forward to similar conversations with other Ole Miss players who are hoping to play in 2018 after transferring this offseason.
"The solution the NCAA came up with in this case wouldn't have been possible without Ole Miss' support," Mars said. "I know Ross Bjork answers to a number of constituent groups, and I hope they see this as a 'win' not just for Michigan and Shea but for Ole Miss as well. That's the way I see it."
The NCAA typically grants requests for immediate eligibility to players who are changing schools because of a hardship, such as a sick family member. Six other underclassmen who left the Ole Miss program this offseason have filed or plan to file petitions with the NCAA to play in 2018.
ESPN's Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.