CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — The NCAA accepted Tez Walker’s transfer waiver on Thursday, making the wide receiver eligible to play for the 14th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels after the university fought for months to get him on the field.
The NCAA released a terse statement saying its staff received new information that had not been made available by North Carolina previously, despite the school’s multiple chances to do so.
“It is unfortunate that UNC failed to provide this important information previously,” NCAA President Charlie Baker and Division I Board of directors chair Jere Morehead said in a joint statement. “While we must be careful not to compromise a student-athlete’s right to privacy when it comes to sensitive issues, we want to assure the Division I membership and everyone watching how the new transfer rules are applied, that this meets the new transfer waiver standards.”
The NCAA also criticized the Tar Heels’ behavior and “decision to wage a public relations campaign,” calling it “inappropriate and outside the bounds of the process UNC’s own staff supported.”
“Had the UNC staff not behaved in this fashion and submitted this information weeks ago, this entire unfortunate episode could have been avoided,” the statement continued.
UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham called the NCAA’s justification for its announcement inaccurate.
“The university submitted all necessary information and documentation as it was made available to us at the time and we still believe Tez met all standards for waiver in early August,” Cunningham said on social media. “It is not clear why the NCAA delayed making the correct decision then, but we are pleased to get to the appropriate resolution now.”
North Carolina coach Mack Brown thanked those at the school who’ve worked to help with Walker’s eligibility. He also thanked the NCAA for taking the time to reexamine Walker’s case.
“We’re happy for Tez,” Brown said in a statement. “Everything that has transpired over the last few months has been for the sole purpose of helping and supporting him, and now he’s going to have a chance to live his dream. … This is, and has always been, about the welfare of this young man and we can’t wait to see him on the field doing what he loves to do.”
Walker was informed of the NCAA’s decision on Thursday.
“This hasn’t been easy but I am looking forward to putting this in the past and moving forward,” Walker said in a statement released by the school. “I always knew UNC was a special place, but it has proved it over and over again the last few months.”
The unbeaten Tar Heels (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) host Syracuse on Saturday.
The NCAA announced in January it was tightening the waiver process, two years after transfer rules were changed to allow all athletes to switch schools one time as an undergraduate without sitting out a season. Because Walker has transferred twice, he needed a waiver to play this season.
The NCAA’s initial decision to decline Walker’s transfer waiver upset Brown, who called the decision unfair.
In a statement after the NCAA’s decision, Brown said he had “lost all faith” in the NCAA’s ability to govern college football, then ended by adding, “Shame on you, NCAA. SHAME ON YOU!”
The NCAA Board of Directors said afterward it was “troubled” by North Carolina’s public criticism of the decision to deny an eligibility waiver, adding that some committee members have received threats of violence.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said on X/Twitter Thursday afternoon that he “wrote the NCAA last week to demand that it reconsider its unfair decision.”
The full NCAA statement reads:
“It is unfortunate that UNC failed to provide this important information previously. While we must be careful not to compromise a student-athlete’s right to privacy when it comes to sensitive issues, we want to assure the Division I membership and everyone watching how the new transfer rules are applied, that this meets the new transfer waiver standards. UNC’s behavior and decision to wage a public relations campaign is inappropriate and outside the bounds of the process UNC’s own staff supported. Had the UNC staff not behaved in this fashion and submitted this information weeks ago, this entire unfortunate episode could have been avoided.”
– NCAA President Charlie Baker and Division I Board of Directors chair Jere Morehead, president of the University of Georgia.