It shouldn’t take much longer to find out whether one of Ohio State’s most hyped additions will see the field in 2019.
Jan. 5, and after weeks and weeks worth of speculation, it was confirmed that not only would Justin Fields be transferring from Georgia, but that OSU would be his landing spot. While Fields would normally have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws, the quarterback has retained the services of Tom Mars, the Arkansas-based lawyer who has become the go-to attorney for players in waiver cases — including Michigan’s Shea Patterson, a transfer from Ole Miss, last year — in an attempt to play immediately.
As the basis of his appeal, it was believed that Fields would use the racist slur directed at him by a since-dismissed UGA baseball player during this past season combined with the new NCAA transfer rules enacted in April — “immediate eligibility may be provided to a transfer student-athlete, provided… the transfer is due to mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete” — to secure the ability to play in 2019. In a Toledo Blade report, it was confirmed that will indeed be the tack Fields/Mars takes, albeit with a twist:
Fields was one of the highest-rated shortstop recruits in the country and is considered a professional baseball prospect. But he wasn’t comfortable joining the Georgia baseball team because of the slurs directed toward him, a source said.
A potential fly in the ointment for Fields is that his sister is a star softball player who had committed to play the sport at UGA, and maintained that commitment by signing with the Bulldogs despite the racial incident involving her brother — the incident happened in October, she signed the next month. However, given what’s at the crux of Fields’ appeal, it’s highly unlikely that UGA, which can object to or support the waiver request, or the NCAA will want to die on that particular hill.
Regardless, Mars expects a decision from the NCAA on Fields’ appeal by February.
“Unlike the situation with the Ole Miss transfers, the process of obtaining a waiver for Justin isn’t going to drag on for months,” Mars told the Blade‘s Kyle Rowland. “This is a high priority for Coach [Ryan] Day, and it’s my top priority at the moment. I’m confident the process will move quickly and that the NCAA will be able to make a decision on OSU’s waiver request much sooner than most people might think.”
Fields was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 player regardless of position in the Class of 2018. He spent his true freshman season as the primary backup to sophomore starter Jake Fromm, completing 27-of-39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball 42 times for 266 yards and scored another four touchdowns on the ground.
If the appeal is successful, it’s likely Fields will enter spring practice — or by the time they exit it — as the odds-on favorite to replace Dwayne Haskins under center for the Buckeyes.