Gov. Roy Cooper ’79 (’82 JD) has asked the NCAA to grant eligibility to a UNC football transfer the association has deemed ineligible to play this season.
Cooper wrote a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker supporting wide receiver Devontez “Tez” Walker’s appeal to the association’s two-time transfer rule, which requires a player to sit out a season if the move to his new school is the second transfer during the player’s collegiate career.
Walker transferred to Carolina from Kent State on Jan. 9, two days before NCAA changed its transfer rule, requiring collegiate athletes who change schools more than once to sit out a season before they are eligible to play, according to The News & Observer.
Before transferring to Kent State, Walker was enrolled at N.C. Central University, but he didn’t play football at the school because the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the first time I have taken such an action, but this is an unusual and compelling case amidst the backdrop of all the major changes happening in the NCAA,” Cooper wrote in his letter to the NCAA. He ended the letter, “I realize this is one of hundreds of decisions you [Baker] need to make, but nothing could be more important to Tez than this opportunity to get one of the finest university educations in the country at UNC and to compete in front of his family in Carolina Blue.”
Last season, Walker was a standout player at Kent State, recording 58 catches for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns. He recently was selected to the 2023 All-ACC Preseason Football Team and the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, a group the organization, which is a member of the National College Football Awards Association, considers among the best collegiate wide receivers in the country.
Before enrolling at NCCU, Walker signed with East Tennessee State University, but an injury deferred his scholarship, and he chose to enroll at NCCU. Due to the cancellation of NCCU’s 2020 season, Walker has played only at Kent State.
Walker issued a statement saying his decision to transfer to UNC was driven mostly by a desire to be closer to his ailing grandmother who lives in Charlotte, Walker’s hometown. “She is my rock, my everything, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” Walker said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “She took care of me when I was younger and being away from her and the rest of my family was very challenging and hard to deal with.”
Walker also noted his grandmother can see him play football in person for the first time now that he’s back in North Carolina. In his statement, Walker emphasizes how the decision affects him. “I want this to be over,” Walker wrote in his tweet. “I want to stop feeling like this. I just want to play.”
UNC football Coach Mack Brown said Aug. 15 at practice that he was “banking on” Baker to step up and allow Walker to play “because it’s what’s best for this young man.”
Brown also said the issue has become a mental-health issue for Walker who “feels really guilty that he’s brought negative attention to our program, which he shouldn’t,” The Fayetteville Observer reported. “He’s really struggling. I see him crying after practice. He came over to me and said, ‘Have you heard anything?’ And he does every day.”
— Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23