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Should UNC’s Tez Walker take legal action after being denied eligibility by the NCAA?

Robert Orr has two words of advice for North Carolina’s Tez Walker: “Lawyer up.”

Orr is a former associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and a long-time attorney. As a UNC graduate, undergraduate and law school, he’s also a long-time Tar Heels sports fan.

Orr didn’t mince words Friday in discussing Walker’s NCAA eligibility case or the ruling Thursday against Walker that makes the wide receiver ineligible for the 2023 season as a two-time transfer.

UNC coach Mack Brown said this past week that Walker, a Charlotte native, could seek legal recourse if denied instant eligibility by the NCAA. Orr said that’s exactly what Walker should do — sue.

Orr said Walker, in his opinion, had grounds for a cause of action lawsuit against both the NCAA and UNC.

“The big challenge is essentially you have to sue UNC and the NCAA, because ultimately it was UNC’s decision not to play him,” Orr said in an interview. “I’ve put it out there as often as I can that if Mack (Brown) wants to play him Saturday, he can put a jersey on him and send him out. UNC just has to be prepared for the NCAA to come after them.

“So if they’re willing to fight the NCAA, and I think they should, I’d say play him. But unfortunately UNC sort of takes the position of ‘we can’t play him because the NCAA said we couldn’t.’ But for all practical purposes, they could.

“So, yes, I certainly would encourage him to consider a lawsuit certainly against the NCAA but inevitably you’d have to include UNC in that.”

The No. 17 Tar Heels host Appalachian State on Saturday after opening the season in Charlotte last week with a 31-17 win over South Carolina. Walker was held out of the game, but was on the UNC sideline.

Walker transferred this year to UNC from Kent State, enrolling Jan. 9. Two days later, the NCAA Council voted to approve stricter guidelines on allowing waivers for two-time transfers who seek immediate eligibility.

“I think that’s one of the grounds for a suit because he was relying on the existing standard for a waiver when he enrolled,” Orr said.

Walker, a preseason first-team All-ACC selection, sent a letter to NCAA president Charlie Baker — posting it online late last week — asking that the NCAA grant him a waiver and the ability to play this season.

Walker noted the “extraordinary circumstances” involved — that N.C. Central canceled its 2020 season because of COVID; that he has played college football only for Kent State, and the need to return to North Carolina to be closer to an ailing grandmother in Charlotte.

Walker held out hope that the NCAA would grant the waiver before the South Carolina game and Brown said he was “banking” on Baker and the NCAA to show leniency toward Walker. That didn’t happen.

The NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief, a seven-member panel, then ruled Thursday that Walker would not be eligible for the 2023 season.

Brown issued a scathing statement blasting the NCAA’s decision and saying, “It makes no sense and it never will.”

Orr noted that Walker sitting out a season could possibly affect his NFL draft status, resulting in possible compensatory damages. Playing this season would have allowed him the chance to be a top receiving target in an offense led by quarterback Drake Maye, potentially an NFL first-rounder.

“This could be a big economic loss for him,” Orr said.

Brown said despite the NCAA’s adverse ruling, “Tez’s future remains bright and we’ll continue to do everything we can to help him fulfill all of his dreams.”