After a deluge of criticism and public outcry regarding Daisha Simmons' fight to get Alabama to support her transfer waiver, the NCAA has cleared her to play in the 2014-15 season.
"It's a good day," said Daisha Simmons in an exclusive phone interview with Swish Appeal about the news this afternoon. "When (Alabama) reversed their initial decision to not support the waiver, my first thought was, ‘Thank God all of this is over.' I was kind of relieved and hopefully the talking about it will be over with. I was just relieved and hoping a lot of this will die down now."
The NCAA called Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella to notify him of their decision at 1:05 EST today and he relayed the message to Simmons' mother, who tells us, "I'm ecstatic."
"I was actually with my mom when she found out, and she was more excited that I was," said Simmons during her interview. "I'm excited...I guess I was staying positive about the situation the whole time, but my mom was more excited than I was."
The news came just days after Alabama seemed to be doubling down on their position with statements from senior officials.
On Monday, Alabama President Dr. Judy Bonner re-iterated the school's position that, "The University of Alabama considers this matter was closed." On Tuesday, in the statement announcing that Alabama would support the waiver, Athletic Director Bill Battle said, "Much of the University's original decision not to endorse a waiver was based on the fact that Miss Simmons declined to provide any information supporting her reasoning for seeking a waiver...She refused to provide this despite several opportunities and requests to do so."
"I feel like Alabama attacked me in the statement, it was like they were supporting me while attacking me," Simmons told us in response to Bill Battle's statement. "I felt it was unnecessary, but at the end of the day, I'm able to play [at Seton Hall] and to move on with my life. I'm not worried about Alabama anymore."
In any event, Alabama relenting in their obstruction of Simmons' transfer on Tuesday was the first - and very important - step in Simmons' gaining the opportunity of playing this season. Without Alabama's approval, the NCAA wouldn't sign off on giving her immediate eligibility. But once the Alabama athletic department stated that they would support the waiver, the ball bounced to the proverbial court of the NCAA.
"Thank you to Alabama for supporting the waiver," Simmons relayed in a text to Swish Appeal. "As I once stated, I hate that the situation has escalated to this point but I appreciate the University for overturning their decision. Like all other situations in life you live and you learn and I've definitely learned from this one.
"Thank you to the NCAA for granting me the sixth year from the beginning. I realize that that has never been done and I was honored to be the first with the opportunity to do so. Last but not least, I want to thank my lawyers, Pat Toscano and Don Jackson. All the reporters who covered the story and never gave up on it. A special thanks goes out to Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Fran Fraschilla, Mike Robinson of Swish Appeal and all the other powerful voices that spoke up not only about my situation but about the overall well-being of student athletes.
"Most importantly I would like to thank the voices on Twitter and Facebook for going to bat for me and supporting me through this time and everyone whom held me in prayer. "
Bama did the only thing that was logical-ask NCAA to grant Daisha Simmons a waiver @ Seton Hall -Leadership @ Bama was so INEPT in this case— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) October 8, 2014
On Wednesday, Seton Hall sent in the necessary paperwork to the NCAA after Alabama's newfound "support" for the waiver. And without much delay, Bozzella got the news that everyone expected.
"That's the most important part -- and the best part to me is being around my family," Simmons told us in conclusion. "People that I know is going to have my back no matter what I decide to do in the future and stuff like that. I'm around people that's always going to be there for me and love me for me -- and not what I can do for them."
For all of our reporting on this story, check out our Daisha Simmons storystream.