The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued a statement Tuesday alleging that some of its committee members have received “violent threats” after a recent decision to deny immediate eligibility to University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) football player Devontez “Tez” Walker.
The NCAA is the organization that regulates collegiate athletics for over 1,000 colleges and universities across the US.
In the statement, the chair of the NCAA’s Division I Board, Jere Morehead, said: “The NCAA is aware of violent – and possibly criminal – threats recently directed at committee members involved in regulatory decisions.
“The national office is coordinating with law enforcement and will continue to do whatever possible to support the volunteers who serve on these committees.”
Walker originally enrolled at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) but never played a game at the school after the 2020 football season was canceled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In spring of 2021, Walker transferred to Kent State University, where he played in the 2021 and 2022 seasons, before then transferring to UNC and requesting a waiver that would allow him to play for the Tar Heels immediately, citing mental health issues as the reason for his need to return to his home state.
After the NCAA denied eligibility to Walker, UNC Football posted a strongly-worded statement on X, formerly Twitter, last week from head football coach Mack Brown condemning the NCAA’s decision.
Walker catches a pass in a game between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Georgia Bulldogs in September 2022. Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
“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 wrote.
“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.”
Brown’s statement concluded: “Shame on you, NCAA. SHAME ON YOU!”
Morehead appeared to acknowledge Brown’s comments in his statement, saying: “The DI Board is troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership.
“Those comments directly contradict what we and our fellow Division I members and coaches called for vociferously – including UNC’s own football coach.
“We are a membership organization, and rather than pursue a public relations campaign that can contribute to a charged environment for our peers who volunteer on committees, we encourage members to use established and agreed upon procedures to voice concerns and propose and adopt rule or policy changes if they are dissatisfied.”
NCAA regulations allow student-athletes permission to transfer schools once with immediate eligibility. If a student-athlete is transferring for a second time, they must sit out one year or receive a transfer waiver to be eligible to compete immediately.
In an open letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker posted on social media by Walker, the wide receiver sought “immediate review and relief” of the organization’s decision, arguing that his waiver was denied on a technicality.
Walker transferred from Kent State to UNC earlier this year. Aaron M. Sprecher/AP
“Governor Baker, this makes no sense,” Walker wrote. “During my time at NCCU, they never played a football game. Covid made them cancel our season. I appeal to your logic as a man and as a leader. Please, review my situation so I can achieve my dream as a student-athlete. Isn’t that what the NCAA is supposed to do? Help student athletes achieve their dreams?”
In North Carolina’s 40-34 win over Appalachian State University on Saturday, Walker served as an honorary team captain. The Tar Heels also wore helmet decals with his name and jersey number on them.