Justin Fields immediately eligible for Ohio State after NCAA appeal

Justin Fields, the former five-star quarterback recruit who left Georgia after his freshman season, has been ruled immediately eligible by the NCAA and will play for Ohio State in the 2019 season. 

Ohio State made the announcement Friday.

“I am happy for Justin and his family,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said in a 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.”

Though Fields played sparingly for Georgia as he couldn’t wrangle the starting job away from Jake Fromm, he is still considered an elite talent and projects to be the Buckeyes’ starter right away in new head coach Day’s debut season. 

Fields put his name in the NCAA transfer portal shortly after the SEC championship game in December and made the move officially following Georgia’s Sugar Bowl loss to Texas. He hired attorney Tom Mars, who has helped several transfers gain immediate eligibility, to make his case to the NCAA. 

Fields, who grew up just outside of Atlanta in Kennesaw, Ga., was the target of racially bigoted comments by Georgia baseball player Adam Sasser during a Sept. 29 win against Tennessee. That incident, which led to Sasser being dismissed from the team, was a key part to Fields’ waiver request based on the NCAA’s new rule that allows immediate eligibility for transfers based on “mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete.”

Fields threw just 39 passes for Georgia, completing 27 with four touchdowns, but most of those came late in blowout victories. The Bulldogs tried to use him as a change-of-pace runner, particularly in red zone situations, but his inclusion in the offense often felt forced and unnatural. 

“I would like to thank the NCAA for its approval of the waiver allowing me to be eligible to play football this fall,” Fields said in a statement. “While my case was pending before the NCAA, my family and I did not feel that it was appropriate to publicly speak about the circumstances leading to my transfer.  In my silence, people began to speculate, and the story took on a life of its own. 

“Now that this matter is concluded, 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.  My sister is a softball player at UGA.  I am still close friends with many of my UGA teammates.  A part of me will always be a Georgia Bulldogs fan.”

At Ohio State, Day will be able to build the offense around Fields’ skillset, which should highlight the ability that many recruiting analysts said was on par with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who led the Tigers to the national championship last season. 

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