Fields Wants To Take The Field
By: Anthony Studnicka
Let me preface what I am about to say with this: I am a huge Justin Fields fan. I love a good transfer success story, and I think he is unquestionably talented. However, some criticism lies ahead.
Yesterday the Ohio State star Quarterback Justin Fields took to twitter announcing a petition that was close to his heart. The purpose of the petition was to encourage the Big 10 Conference to reconsider their position on suspending the Fall 2020 football season. While Fields gained immediate widespread support, potential implications of this petition may be worth discussing.
To begin, it is unlikely the Big 10 will take into consideration the number of signatures on the petition. The Big 10 is likely already well aware that many fans across the country would marvel at the opportunity to watch football every Saturday this fall. The Big 10 also understands what they have to gain by playing. However, the people signing this petition likely do not have as much to lose as the Big 10, or, in other words, the same liabilities. If Fields were to actually attempt to influence the Big 10, a more persuasive strategy may have been creating a petition comprised of current Big 10 football players, coaches, and staff to show the conference the support from the actual individuals who will be putting their health and safety on the lines, if this decision to play football is reconsidered.
There are also deeper implications which the Big 10 may be considering. In an article discussing the pathway for the potential play of college football, attorney Angela de Cespedes of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr remarked, “you’ve got athletes, feeling pretty powerful, making demands of these colleges for the things they want, and that’s a slippery slope.”
In other words, the Big 10 may be wary of succumbing to the position of a powerful athlete within their conference after very recently announcing this decision and no new medical evidence has come out to support the contrary. Actually, quite the opposite of this has occurred, as the NCAA’s top doctor, Dr. Brian Hainline just recently said there is no way they can move forward with sports without more testing.
An additional concern for the Big 10 is that even if this petition were to hold merit and they were to strongly consider it, is it not as simple as merely allowing football to occur this fall. If the Big 10 were to permit football to occur, they would need to allow other sports an equal opportunity to be played to relieve themselves from potential Title 9 violations. This would likely mean providing participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their rates of enrollment. This means accommodating the athletic interests of both genders to the same degree. In other words, if football is going to be played, expect other sports to be played, too. However, it is unclear whether or not postponing a sport to the subsequent semester in the spring would amount to a violation of Title 9, since the sport would not be canceled and rather just suspended. However, this consideration is relevant and may go either way.
In conclusion, Justin Fields’ passion and effort to get the Big 10 Conference to reconsider playing football this fall is applaudable. He has a lot on the line, as he is considered by many scouts one of the top NFL QB prospects. He is a Heisman trophy front-runner and is on a talented potential National Championship contending Ohio State football team. Fields could easily have elected to lay low during these abnormal times, opted out of playing this fall whether-or-not a season occurred, and most likely cemented himself as being selected in the round 1 of the NFL Draft next spring. If he did that, depending on where he was selected, it would net him somewhere in the $11-37 million range. Based on his current round 1 draft grade, Todd McShay has Fields projected to be the fourth overall pick, which would earn him a contract of over $32 million. Instead, of playing it safe, Fields is leading the charge to take the field, because the fight is close to his heart. It is hard not to respect that.
In the bigger picture, actions like this lead legal minds to wonder, what is on the forefront in the coming years for college athletes? Small steps like this continue to sway in favor of college athletes unionizing. Of course, they would have to become employees and shed their amateur status, before that could occur. But over the last few months, from the name, image, and likeness movement to smaller steps like this, it seems this future may be inevitable.
Anthony is a third-year student at Arizona State University pursuing a J.D. and a Master of Sports Law & Business. He is the creator of Long Run Sports.
 J. Brady McCollough, Commentary: There’s A Path To Playing College Football. Clearly, Lawyers Have Found It, LA Times (Aug. 15, 2020), https://sports.yahoo.com/commentary-theres-path-playing-college-181031910.html.  Ben Kercheval, NCAA’s Top Doctor Says More Testing Needed Or “There’s No Way We Can Go Forward With Sports”, CBS Sports (Aug. 16, 2020), https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/ncaas-top-doctor-says-more-testing-needed-or-theres-no-way-we-can-go-forward-with-sports/.  Jonathan Adams, NFL Draft Pick Salaries: How Much Money Do 1st Rounders Make In 2020?, Heavy (Apr. 23, 2020),https://heavy.com/sports/2020/04/nfl-draft-salary-contract-picks-money-rookie/.  Tim Weaver, 2021 Mock Draft: Panthers Pick Ohio State QB Justin Fields at No. 4, Panthers Wire (Aug. 12, 2020),https://pantherswire.usatoday.com/2020/08/12/panthers-mock-draft-justin-fields-ohio-state/.