Justin Fields

Players unite in push to save college season, create union

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Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and other college football players pushing for the opportunity to play this season despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the organizers behind a players’ rights movement in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pitting Lawrence’s message against the efforts of #BigTenUnited and #WeAreUnited.

“There was a lot of division,” Reynolds told AP early Monday morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clemson teammate, Darien Rencher, and within a matter of hours the summer of athlete empowerment found another gear.

College football players from across the country united Sunday in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from Florida State to Oregon posted a graphic on social media with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited.

“We came to the conclusion, We Want to Play, their message might have been conveyed differently but at the end of the day the message wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten United wanted to promote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every athlete, I’m pretty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAreUnited hashtag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 players in announcing a movement they say has the support of hundreds of peers within their conference. They have threatened mass opt-outs by players if concerns about COVID-19 protocols, racial injustice in college sports and economic rights for athletes are not addressed.

#BigTenUnited arrived on the scene a couple days later, a movement that claimed the backing off 1,000 Big Ten football players. Their demands were more targeted, strictly related to health and safety in dealing with COVID-19.

Sunday night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meeting — of course — with some of the Pac-12 players involved in “WeAreUnited.”

Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs got to work on a graphic and now the movement is officially nationwide.

“Just started bouncing ideas off each others’ heads and kind of discussing where we go from here and we ended up coming up with that statement,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

All of this capped a weekend during which the adults who run college sports seemed to be moving toward shutting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-American Conference became the first of the major college football leagues to cancel the fall season, Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday. They discussed mounting concerns about whether a season can be safely conducted with the pandemic still not under control in the United States.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hanging over college football, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a summer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence posted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message, and the parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants athletes to have a say in the meetings that are deciding the fate of their sports — starting now.

”All college athletes through unifying and not being afraid to speak our minds and having social media to kind of mobilize, I think that box on a Zoom call is something that is pretty attainable,” he said. “Especially, in the near future.”

College Football amidst Coronavirus Pandemic: On this day in CFT history, including Urban Meyer being placed on paid administrative leave as Ohio State launches investigation

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The sports world, including college football, had essentially screeched to a halt in the spring as countries around the world battled the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there was a dearth of college football news as the sport went into a COVID-induced hibernation.  Slowly, though, the game is coming back to life.  Hopefully.

That being said, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on August 1, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football down-time, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Tate Martell (barely) favored to win Miami job (and other QB competition odds)
THE SYNOPSIS: Yeah, that’s not how that turned out.  At all.  A refresher from last year:

Instead of bringing it on and competing with Georgia transfer Justin Fields for the starting quarterback job, Martell hightailed it out of Ohio State this past offseason and ultimately landed at Miami shortly thereafter.  Granted immediate eligibility with the Hurricanes, and seen as a slight favorite to win the starting job, Martell instead saw Williams stake his claim as QB1 as head coach Manny Diaz named the redshirt freshman the Hurricanes’ starter to start the season.

Losing out on the starting job led to Martell bailing on practice for the initial personal leave, even as he ultimately returned.  Not long after, it was reported that Martell had begun working with Miami’s wide receivers; last month, Martell shifted his on-field focus back to the quarterback position.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Urban Meyer placed on paid administrative leave as Ohio State launches investigation
THE SYNOPSIS: The probe stemmed from allegations that Meyer had direct knowledge of domestic abuse allegations involving a now-former assistant coach, knowledge Meyer had vehemently denied at the Big Ten Media Days the month before. Meyer was ultimately suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season.  In December of that same year, Meyer announced he was retiring at season’s end.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Body of Nevada’s Marc Ma found, a year after he was presumed drowned
THE SYNOPSIS: Another one of those headlines you never, ever want to write.  Although, this did offer the family some semblance of closure.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Texas A&M prez ‘dismayed, disappointed, angry’ over sexist presentation
THE SYNOPSIS: It’s still unbelievable how this ever saw the light of day.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Penn State, Pitt ADs will discuss potential future of in-state series
THE SYNOPSIS: Much like the Texas-Texas A&M talk, all I hear is blah blah blah blah blah.

2014

THE HEADLINE: Report: Miami QB Kevin Olsen suspended for at least a game
THE SYNOPSIS: You talk about a Greek football tragedy.  After multiple suspensions, Olsen was dismissed by The U in September of 2014.  After transferring to Towson in December of that same year, Olsen was dismissed by that FCS school before he ever played a down.  He then spent the 2015 season at a California junior college.  Olsen then transferred to Charlotte for the 2016 season.  In February of 2017, the brother of former Hurricanes standout Greg Olsen was arrested on felony rape charges.  A year and a half later, he was found not guilty on all counts.

2012

THE HEADLINE: War vet, Purple Heart recipient officially a Clemson Tiger
THE SYNOPSIS: These are the stories I live for.  Literally.  And, if you’ve never heard Daniel Rodriguez‘s story, make it a point to rectify that.  True.  Hero.

Trevor Lawrence the wagering favorite over Justin Fields to be No. 1 pick in 2021 NFL Draft

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Once again, the football futures of Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are intertwined.

First off, yes, we know that the 2020 NFL Draft just ended.  Yes, we’re fully aware that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the fate of 2020 college football season is very much up in the air.  Thirdly, do you really have anything better to do?

With that out of the way, the MGM Grand has released its wagering odds on who will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.  The two favorites?  Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, of course. The Clemson quarterback is a sizable favorite at 2/5.  His Ohio State signal-calling counterpart, meanwhile, sits at 7/2.

The two players, who are both rising third-year juniors, have been connected to one another going back to their days in high school.

Both played their high school ball in the state of Georgia.  Lawrence was the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2018.  The No. 2 player?  Fields.  Lawrence’s Tigers, of course, beat Fields’ Buckeyes in a come-from-behind win in one of the two 2019 College Football Playoff semifinal matchups this past season.  In March, Fields and Lawrence were the only college football players named as semifinalists for the Sullivan Award.

Since the 2019 season ended, Fields and Lawrence — or Lawrence and Fields — are far and away the favorites to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.

For those curious, the most noteworthy odds that don’t involve Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields belong to a player from Oregon.  An offensive lineman, actually.  Tackle Penei Sewell has been given 5/1 odds to be the first player selected in the 2020 NFL draft.

Justin Fields takes veiled shot at ex rival Tate Martell

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Justin Fields hasn’t said much about Tate Martell since enrolling at Ohio State. Actions speak louder than words, after all, and 51 touchdowns says plenty all on its own. But that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten.

Martell, of course, was an Ohio State quarterback before Fields, and all but challenged Fields’ manhood to come in and try to take the job Martell viewed was his.

“[W]ord of advice: don’t swing and miss… especially not your second time,” Martell tweeted on Dec. 22, 2018.

“Why would I leave for somebody who hasn’t put a single second into this program yet?” Martell later said. “I’ve put two years of working my ass off into something that I’ve been praying for and dreaming of my whole life. To just run from somebody that hasn’t put a single second into workouts or anything like that and doesn’t know what the program is all about, there’s not a chance.”

Two weeks later, Martell was in the transfer portal.

So, yes, Fields hasn’t said much, because he hasn’t had to. Fields led Ohio State to a Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff berth in 2019; Martell led Miami to seven passing yards.

But, on Tuesday, Fields reminded Martell that he still remembers that since-deleted tweet.

Fields won the battle with Martell a long time ago. Won it before it even began, actually. But Tuesday’s tweet was a nice victory lap, 15 and a half months in the making.