NCAA’s lack of empathy for Tez Walker sparks outrage and threats

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The NCAA has been facing a backlash from the public and the University of North Carolina (UNC) after denying immediate eligibility to football player Tez Walker, who transferred schools for mental health reasons. The decision has been criticized as cruel, unfair, and hypocritical by many, including UNC’s head coach Mack Brown, who accused the NCAA of failing to support its athletes. The NCAA has also reported receiving violent threats from some angry fans, which it condemned as unacceptable.

Tez Walker’s transfer saga

Tez Walker is a wide receiver who originally enrolled at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in 2020, but never played a game there due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He then transferred to Kent State University, where he played in the 2021 and 2022 seasons, earning a preseason All-ACC selection this year. However, Walker decided to transfer again to UNC, his home state school, citing mental health issues as the reason. He said he felt stress and anxiety while attending school far from home and wanted to be closer to his family and his ailing grandmother, who had never seen him play college football.

Walker applied for a waiver that would allow him to play for the Tar Heels immediately, instead of sitting out a year as required by the NCAA rules for two-time transfers. He provided extensive documentation of his mental health challenges and hoped that the NCAA would grant him an exception based on his personal circumstances. However, the NCAA denied his eligibility for the 2023 season, saying that he did not meet the criteria for a waiver. The NCAA also rejected his appeal, leaving him unable to play this year.

UNC’s reaction and criticism

The denial of Walker’s eligibility sparked outrage from UNC, which issued a strongly-worded statement on X, formerly Twitter, last week. UNC’s head coach Mack Brown expressed his disappointment and anger at the NCAA, saying that it did not care about the well-being of its athletes and that it was preoccupied with money and power.

 Tez Walker sparks outrage and threats

“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 wrote. “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.”

Brown also called out the NCAA for its inconsistency and hypocrisy, pointing out that it had recently allowed gambling sponsorships on playing attire and equipment in international bilateral matches, which he said was a contradiction to its stated values of integrity and education.

“Shame on you, NCAA. SHAME ON YOU!” Brown concluded.

UNC’s athletic director Bubba Cunningham also criticized the NCAA for its decision, saying that it was “unconscionable” and “indefensible”. He said that Walker deserved compassion and respect from the NCAA, not rejection and humiliation.

NCAA’s response and threats

The NCAA defended its decision by saying that it was following the rules that were agreed upon by its member institutions and coaches, including UNC’s own football coach. It said that Walker did not meet the criteria for a waiver, which are based on objective factors such as academic progress, injury or illness, or extraordinary circumstances beyond the student-athlete’s control.

The NCAA also issued a statement on Tuesday alleging that some of its committee members had received violent threats from some fans who were unhappy with the decision. It said that it was coordinating with law enforcement and that it would do whatever possible to support its volunteers who serve on these committees.

“The DI Board is troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership,” said Jere Morehead, the chair of the NCAA’s Division I Board. “Those comments directly contradict what we and our fellow Division I members and coaches called for vociferously – including UNC’s own football coach.”

Morehead also urged the members to use established procedures to voice their concerns and propose changes if they were dissatisfied with the current rules or policies.

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