When the NCAA basketball tournament began, the Michigan Wolverines odds of winning it all were about 1 in 25.
Austin Hatch will take those odds any day.
The Wolverines’ undergraduate student assistant and former teammate survived two plane crashes as a teen that killed all five members of his family.
Arnold Barnett, an MIT statistician, said the odds of surviving a plane crash with one fatality involved is 1 in 3.4 million. The odds of surviving two is 1 in 11 quadrillion and 560 trillion.
Or roughly 120,000 times the world population.
Hatch will take the floor with his team to face Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four in San Antonio on Saturday.
“It makes your heart warm,” Michigan head coach John Beilein told The New York Post. “If we’ve been a small part of his life, it’s tremendous. He’s been a huge part of my life and this team’s life.”
Hatch survived two plane crashes in the span of eight years. In 2003, he lost his mother, Julie, younger brother, Ian, and older sister, Lindsay, in a crash near Fort Wayne. In 2011, nine days after making his commitment to the Wolverines, the plane his father was piloting crashed again. His father survived the first one with Austin, but this time died along with his stepmother, Kim, whom he’d come to cherish as “my second mom.”
After the second crash, the 6-foot-6 star forward from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, had to relearn how to walk, talk and breathe after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
He also had to deal with the grief of having lost the remaining members of his family.
After the second crash, Hatch not only recovered, he made an inspirational return to the basketball court.
He went to live with an uncle in California and then moved on to Michigan, his mother’s alma mater, where head coach John Beilein honored the scholarship offered before the 2011 tragedy.
Hatch played in five games as a freshman for the Wolverines, but decided not to return to the team after that season. Lingering effects of the second crash meant he was not the same player.
Instead, he became an undergraduate student assistant for Beilein, with whom he has formed a close bond.
Hatch was honored as part of a senior day ceremony last month, receiving a loud ovation from the crowd at Michigan’s Crisler Center.
At Michigan, Austin played college basketball, earned a business degree and met his future wife, Abby Cole. They’ll be married in June.
Austin and Abby, a volleyball player at Michigan, attend church in Ann Arbor, and their shared faith has been central to their relationship. They were introduced to one another on campus, and then ended up having a class together. Three years later they were engaged.
Hatch told mgoblue.com:
“I believe I’m here for a reason. I believe in a higher power, but I had to do my part, too. And it was almost like my dad was preparing me. We go through the first accident together, and I wasn’t really hurt that bad physically. The emotional pain was obviously tough, with losing my family—my mom, brother and sister. It was so tough for him, too, losing his wife and his two kids. Getting ready to get married now, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him.
“But he set an example for me, and pressed on and pushed through it for me. My dad was telling me the whole time, ‘Hey, Aus, watch everything I do because in six to eight years, you are going to have to do this on your own. So, take good notes and be prepared.’ That was what I did was based on.”
Can the Wolverines win the NCAA basketball championship? The odds are not in their favor, but with Austin Hatch on their bench, odds don’t mean much. And besides, Hatch seems to have already won. Hatch says of his life, “We’re blessed. I’m blessed more than I deserve. I shouldn’t have it this good.”