“I get to finish with the girls I started with” – Alabama’s Claire Jenkins excited for 2021 after NCAA ruling

Alabama’s Claire Jenkins. (Martha Needham/The Cullman Tribune)

TUSCLOOSA, Ala. – With seemingly endless waves of bad news hitting the sports world day after day, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was able to send out a positive headlines Monday. The Division 1 Council voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.

The Council’s statement reads in part,

“Members also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay. In a nod to the financial uncertainty faced by higher education, the Council vote also provided schools with the flexibility to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that athletics aid be provided at the same level awarded for 2019-20. This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.

“Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.

“Division I rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period. The Council’s decision allows schools to self-apply waivers to restore one of those seasons of competition for student-athletes who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season.

“The Council also will allow schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year “clock” by a year. This decision was especially important for student-athletes who had reached the end of their five-year clock in 2020 and saw their seasons end abruptly.”

There is at least one former Bearcat out there who will be affected by the ruling. Alabama shortstop and former Cullman standout Claire Jenkins had her senior season taken from her after an ACL injury last fall. A medical redshirt will allow Jenkins to play her senior season next year and after the NCAA made its decision Monday, her fellow seniors will now be able to return with her.

Jenkins is happy to report that her recovery is going well since her injury and is already seeing daily improvements. She admits it’s been a challenge to rehab and bounce back but knows she’ll be as ready to play as ever once the time comes.

“It is going extremely well. I have a great group of people that have been helping me recover. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s been a lot of hard work but every day I see little improvements,” Jenkins said. “It has been a test mentally and physically, but I fully believe that I will be stronger when it is all said and done.”

The effects of the COVID-19 outbreak are being felt virtually everywhere and one of the groups hit hardest have been senior spring athletes whose seasons were cut short. Jenkins would have been able to take advantage of a medical redshirt and get back on the field for her senior season eventually but now, she’ll be able to play that season with her classmates as well.

“It has definitely kept me up at night I would say. For me it was weird because I had a medical redshirt so I knew that even though I may have to wait awhile I would still get my fourth year. On the other hand, the girls in my class didn’t have the same opportunity as me and that weighed heavy on me because I knew it would be extremely hard for me if I was in that position,” Jenkins said. “However now since we all get an extra year it brings me immense joy because they get their fourth year and I get to finish with the girls that I started with.”

The events of the last few weeks have given us all a healthy dose of perspective and Claire and her teammates are no different. She’s more excited than ever to get back on the field with her team and she knows each of them will be cherishing every moment.

“Everyone is overjoyed and fired up! These events have opened up everyone’s eyes to how things can change in an instant. I know that all of us will enjoy every moment we have together next year and play every game like it’s our last,” Jenkins said. “Everyone should get ready for an amazing season next year.”

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