The NCAA on Thursday denied 2023 eligibility for North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker, drawing pointed criticism from UNC and head coach Mack Brown.
"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 in a statement. "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."
Walker, a junior from Charlotte, transferred to North Carolina this offseason from Kent State. The transfer was his second after he initially signed a letter of intent to play for East Tennessee State as a freshman.
The NCAA on Jan. 11 voted to tighten rules for two-time transfers, requiring them to "adequately document a personal need for medical or safety reasons to depart the previous school" to be eligible to play the season that they transfer. Walker made his decision to transfer on Jan. 9.
“The first and main reason I decided to transfer from Kent State was the stress and anxiety I was feeling being away from my home while my grandmother deals with health issues," Walker's statement read. "She is my rock, my everything, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her."
Walker also wrote that he transferred believing that he would be eligible because he did so two days before the NCAA voted to change its rules.
"When I made the decision to transfer from Kent St. back to my home area at UNC, I did so thinking I would be able to play this year," Walker wrote. "The way the rules were set up at the time, we knew we'd have to file a waiver as a two-time transfer, and in previous years, those waivers were being granted. But, after entering the portal and enrolling in classes, the NCAA voted to change the rule on two-time transfers and denied my waiver."
Walker sat North Carolina's season-opening win over South Carolina as UNC waited for the NCAA's appeal decision. Brown slammed the NCAA for the denial in a statement after the decision dropped Thursday:
A statement from UNC HC Mack Brown on Tez Walker pic.twitter.com/ngm5jKlL20
— Carolina Football (@UNCFootball) September 7, 2023
"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 continued. "They've messed so many things up as it relates to college football, and now their failures have negatively impacted the life of one of our own. ...
"Shame on you, NCAA. SHAME ON YOU!"
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham also directed sharp criticism toward the NCAA in a statement:
A statement regarding today's decision about Tez Walker pic.twitter.com/nmshkHtLco
— Bubba Cunningham (@BubbaUNC) September 7, 2023
"This decision undermines the fair treatment of student-athletes and further erodes the public's confidence in our national governing body," Cunningham wrote. "Despite the NCAA's failure, we will continue to support Tez Walker and his family."
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz added that the university is "deeply disappointed" in the NCAA's decision.
— Kevin Guskiewicz (@KevinGuskiewicz) September 7, 2023
Walker was expected to play a key role in North Carolina's offense and was voted preseason All-ACC. During his sophomore season at Kent State, he tallied 58 catches for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns. Led by All-ACC quarterback and Heisman hopeful Drake Maye, UNC opened its season on Saturday with a 31-17 win over South Carolina and entered Week 2 ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25.