UNC WR Walker denied appeal, ineligible for '23

North Carolina coach Mack Brown ripped the NCAA on Thursday after receiving word that receiver Tez Walker will be ineligible to play this season.

Saying the NCAA has failed Walker and his family, Brown said, “It makes no sense and it never will.”

Walker and North Carolina have spent months appealing the NCAA’s initial decision to reject his waiver to play in 2023 as a two-time transfer on multiple grounds: mental health challenges he has experienced, leading to his decision to transfer closer to home; and that he never played at his first school, NC Central, because its season was canceled as a result of the pandemic.

His two previous schools, NC Central and Kent State, filed waivers in support of Walker playing this year.

His final effort at getting eligibility went before a committee of NCAA Division I representatives Thursday.

“We’re absolutely crushed to learn that Tez Walker’s eligibility has been denied for this season and he won’t be able to play,” Brown said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been more disappointed in a person, a group of people, or an institution than I am with the NCAA right now. It’s clear that the NCAA is about process and it couldn’t care less about the young people it’s supposed to be supporting. Plain and simple, the NCAA has failed Tez and his family and I’ve lost all faith in its ability to lead and govern our sport.”

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the NCAA “on eight different occasions … had the opportunity to demonstrate it can make sound and reasonable decisions in the best interest of student-athletes based on individual circumstances. Instead, the NCAA made a maddening, frustrating and wrong decision — for Tez, for college football and for college athletics.”

On Jan. 11, the NCAA announced it would be cracking down on allowing waivers for two-time transfers, two days after Walker began classes at North Carolina. The guidelines, which were unanimously approved by the Division I Council, state that “multiple-time transfers who cannot demonstrate and adequately document a personal need for medical or safety reasons to depart the previous school are not eligible to compete immediately following their second undergraduate transfer.”

Stephen LaPorta, the chair of the NCAA committee on legislative relief, said Thursday in a statement that the NCAA does not comment on specific cases, but he went on to say “the NCAA takes student-athlete mental health and well-being seriously.”

He also said in the statement that resources and support systems are still available to two-time transfers who do not receive a waiver to compete “as they acclimate to their new schools prior to competing the next year.”

Walker has said he has received mental health counseling since he arrived at North Carolina. Cunningham said North Carolina and Kent State “have provided overwhelming evidence detailing his mental health needs” and pointed out that the transfer waiver requirements were restricted after Walker moved to North Carolina.

Walker grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and served as the primary caregiver for his grandmother when he was in high school.

“Just imagine what it is like for Tez to be so excited to come home and have a chance to fulfill his childhood dream of playing for North Carolina in front of all of his family and friends, only to have it taken away despite doing nothing wrong,” Brown said in his statement. “I can’t begin to understand how this has happened. The decision makers at the NCAA and on the committee should be ashamed of themselves for doing this to a young man.”

“As has been clearly documented, Tez should be eligible for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mental health issues he’s faced during his time in college. And with this decision, the NCAA has placed an unnecessary burden on him. He’s had a rough go of it and this will surely only make it worse.

“How dare they ever speak about mental health and student-athlete welfare again. We’ve got complete rosters overhauled through the transfer portal, players playing in their 8th year of college, players playing at their fourth school, and the list goes on. Yet, Tez Walker, who has only played football at one school, isn’t eligible. It makes no sense and it never will.

Brown closed his statement with this:

“Shame on you, NCAA. SHAME ON YOU!”

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