Experts believed that Justin Fields would be successful in his bid for a waiver transfer from the NCAA.
The organization has become more lenient in granting them, and an incident in which Fields was the object of a racial slur at a Georgia game last September strengthened his case.
But nothing is ever certain when it comes to the NCAA. On Friday, Fields and Ohio State got the news they wanted when the quarterback was ruled eligible for the 2019 season.
“I will work hard to represent you and The Ohio State University in a professional and respectful manner,” Fields said in a statement released by OSU. “My dad always tells me that “you can’t get to where you are going by looking in the ‘rear view mirror.’ ” I’m ready to move forward and embrace the next season of my life.”
Fields, from Kennesaw, Georgia, was the No. 2-ranked prospect in the 2018 recruiting class. He trailed only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who led the Tigers to the national championship. Fields signed with Georgia hoping to unseat Jake Fromm, but he was unable. In a game against Tennessee, a Georgia baseball player yelled racial slurs toward Fields.
Here's the statement from Justin Fields: pic.twitter.com/6X4FctkbVA— Bill Rabinowitz (@brdispatch) February 8, 2019
That was believed to be at least part of the basis for his case for immediate eligibility. Last year, the NCAA adopted language that indicated it would look favorably upon a transfer waiver request if there was anything that would “directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete” at his original institution.
Fields downplayed the issue in his statement.
“Now that this matter is concluded,” Fields said, “I would like to clarify some facts. I have no regrets about my time at UGA and have no hard feelings for the school or football program. My overall experience at UGA was fully consistent with UGA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
On Wednesday, Fields spoke to media covering Ohio State and said his decision to transfer to Ohio State was a “business decision” based on new coach Ryan Day’s reputation for developing quarterbacks.
With Dwayne Haskins Jr. heading to the NFL, Fields is the favorite to succeed him as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, though he will have to fend off a challenge from Matthew Baldwin. The redshirt freshman spent the 2018 season rehabbing from a torn knee ligament and impressed during Rose Bowl practices.
Last year’s backup, Tate Martell, transferred to the University of Miami after Fields enrolled at Ohio State a month ago. The Buckeyes’ only other scholarship quarterback is graduate transfer Chris Chugunov.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“I am happy for Justin and his family,” Day said in the university’s statement. “I also want to express my appreciation to the NCAA for its assistance in getting this matter resolved efficiently and with such a positive outcome for Justin.”
No quarterback in Ohio State history has been as highly ranked as a recruit as Fields. He is considered a polished passer with an ability to read defenses, while also being a dangerous threat as a runner.
Fields completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns without an interception for the Bulldogs last season. He also ran 42 times for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
Fields’ attorney, Tom Mars, praised the help Ohio State provided during the transfer waiver process.
“I’m happy for Justin and his family and all the Buckeyes fans who’ve been waiting for this decision,” he said. “Justin’s not only a great quarterback. He’s also an exceptionally mature and impressive young man. He fully deserved to receive a waiver.”
Mars also handled the transfer waiver case for Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson last year.
“I’m not sure how Justin being declared eligible will sit with all the friends I’ve made at Michigan, but I hope they won’t hold this against me,” Mars said. “Shea thrives on competition, so I’m sure it won’t bother him one bit.”