Nose guard Kurt Hinish opts in for more football at Notre Dame in 2021

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

A day after Notre Dame’s football season came to an end, senior Kurt Hinish affirmed he wasn’t ready for his career to do the same.

Invoking the NCAA’s COVID-19 rule, the two-year starter at nose guard will return to play a fifth season for the Irish in 2021, a source close to the situation confirmed on Saturday. Irish Illustrated was the first to report the news.

Because he was a player with expiring eligibility under normal circumstances, Hinish, under the COVID rule, will not count against the NCAA scholarship limit of 85 in 2021.

The 6-foot-2, 296-pound Pittsburgh product amassed career highs in tackles (19) and tackles for loss (7.5) in 2020, to go along with two sacks and a QB hurry.

As the NCAA scrambled this summer to provide a safe and soft landing for underclassmen who pondered opting out of the 2020 season for reasons related to COVID-19, it balanced that by not making the opt-out more rewarding than playing.

The result was a blanket extra year of eligibility for everyone on an active college football roster. That means six years to complete five seasons of playing for those who didn’t opt out, six years to complete four seasons of playing for those who did, and seven years to complete five for those rare individuals like Notre Dame safety Shaun Crawford, a sixth-year student already.

There are some individual exceptions, including those relating to some players who transfer.

Since Hinish never redshirted, he’ll complete his five seasons of playing in five years.

On Notre Dame’s 2020 roster, there were 13 players with expiring eligibility under normal circumstances. Only kicker Jonathan Doerer among them had previously stated that he was strongly considering a return.

Six of the 13, including quarterback Ian Book, have elected to play in the Senior Bowl, the premier NFL Draft showcase, Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala. The others are offensive tackles Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey, defensive ends Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes, and wide receiver Ben Skowronek.

All-America rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is one of a handful of players with multiple years of eligibility remaining who could decide in the coming days to join the others in the NFL Draft pool.

No. 4 Notre Dame (10-2) fell 31-14 to Alabama, Friday in the relocated Rose Bowl/College Football Playoff semifinal at Arlington, Texas.

The Irish open the 2021 season Sept. 5 at Florida State.

Grad senior Kurt Hinish (41) leads a deep and talented interior defensive line contingent in 2021.