Walker Denied NCAA Eligibility Appeal

After a tense battle with the NCAA, UNC football wide receiver Devontez “Tez” Walker was denied eligibility for the 2023 season, drawing sharp criticism of the athletic association from University officials.

The fight for Walker’s eligibility began in August when the NCAA denied his waiver to play this season for the Tar Heels even though he is a two-time transfer. In January, the NCAA passed a rule requiring a player to sit out a season if the move to a new school is the second transfer during the player’s collegiate career.

Walker, a Charlotte native, committed to East Tennessee State University in 2019, but he deferred his enrollment because of a knee injury. He enrolled at N.C. Central University, but the school’s 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. Walker then transferred to Kent State University, where he played for two seasons, before transferring to UNC. He has said he transferred to Carolina to be closer to his family and his ailing grandmother, who has never seen him play on a collegiate level.

Coach Mack Brown, who has been direct in his displeasure with the NCAA’s previous denial of a waiver and the handling of the case, said the football program was “crushed” by the decision and harshly rebuked the NCAA in a statement posted on social media shortly after the decision.

“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,” Brown wrote. “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.”

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz tweeted his disappointment with the ruling. “There is a time when organizations need to be flexible enough to do the right thing in unique circumstances to best serve the personal welfare of those they serve,” he wrote.

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham also posted a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The NCAA made a maddening, frustrating and wrong decision — for Tez, for college football and for college athletics,” Cunningham said. “This decision undermined the fair treatment of student-athletes and further erodes the public’s confidence in our national governing body.”

Walker’s appeal had previously reached the top office in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper ’79 (’82 JD) wrote a letter in August to NCAA President Charlie Baker saying “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.”

The process has taken a mental toll on Walker, who “feels really guilty that he’s brought negative attention to our program, which he shouldn’t,” Brown said in August, according to The Fayetteville Observer. “He’s really struggling. I see him crying after practice.”

Walker will be eligible to play beginning in 2024.

— Cameron Fardy ’23


Share via: