CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WGHP) — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wide receiver Tez Walker has been declared immediately eligible by the NCAA.

The decision puts an end to a months-long saga that left Walker unable to play in the Tar Heels’ first four games of the season.

A Charlotte native, Walker initially committed to North Carolina Central University in 2020 but did not play in any games as the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walker then spent the next two seasons at Kent State University, where he had a breakout season in 2022 before deciding to transfer to UNC.

One of the reasons Walker transferred to UNC was to be closer to his grandmother who lives in Charlotte and is dealing with health issues.

Despite not playing in a game for NC Central, Walker’s appeals to be declared eligible by the NCAA had all been previously denied on the basis of a recent rule change that required athletes who transfer more than once to sit out for one season.

UNC Head Coach Mack Brown released the following statement on Walker being declared eligible:

“We were thrilled to find out earlier today that Tez Walker has been gratned his immediate eligibly and will be available for the remainder of the 2023 season. We’re so happy for Tez. Everything that’s transpired over the last few months has been with the sole purpose of helping and supporting him, and now he’s going to have a chance to live his dream. We want to express our gratitude to the people at UNC who have worked tirelessly to assist Tez. We never gave up. We also want to thank the NCAA for being willing to re-examine Tez’s case, and ultimatley deciding to grant him his eligibity. This is, and always has 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.”

Mack Brown

Walker’s ineligibility had become a hot-button issue in the debate on student athletes’ rights in the era of name, image and likeness and the transfer portal.

Brown slammed the NCAA when Walker’s appeal was denied earlier in September.

“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 said in the statement. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been more disappointed in a person, a group of people, or an institution that I am with the NCAA right now.”

The NCAA ruled Walker ineligible back at the beginning of August, and his appeal process forced him to sit out the Tar Heels’ season-opening victory against South Carolina in his hometown. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper even sent a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker to argue on Walker’s behalf.

“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 continued in his statement. “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.”

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein wrote a letter to the NCAA urging them to reconsider their decision on Sept. 26.

Stein said that the decision was wrong “as a matter of common sense and decency and likely violated federal and state antitrust laws.”

The attorney general released the following statement:

“I wrote the NCAA to demand that it reconsider its unfair decision about Tez Walker. I am gratified that it has listened and will now allow him to play. I wish this young man nothing but the best.”

A copy of Steins’ letter to the NCAA can be read here.

The NCAA says that they “received new information” about Walker this week and thus decided that the new information qualified him for a transfer waiver.

The NCAA claims that UNC did not provide this information previously and accused the university of “waging a public relations campaign.”

Their full statement can be read below:

NCAA staff received new information regarding University of North Carolina student-athlete Tez Walker this week. Staff determined the new information qualifies Walker for a transfer waiver. The information had not been made available by UNC previously, despite the school’s multiple chances to do so.  

“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

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz pushed back on the NCAA’s claims that UNC withheld information at any point in the process of seeking Walker’s eligibility.

“We are elated at the resolution for Tez Walker and for all who supported him here at UNC-Chapel Hill. We know that he has been through a lot as we pursued numerous appeals with the NCAA. UNC provided all available information at every step of the process. I want to thank everyone at Carolina who worked in support of Tez. In our stated effort to exhaust all avenues, new information about this mater came to our attention and we immediately gathered and submitted it for consideration. The NCAA reached the right decision that restores Tez’s experience as a student-athlete and a Tar Heel.”

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz

Walker says that the experience has been difficult but he is ready to move forward and get on the field and help the Tar Heels.

“I’m so excited and thankful the NCAA has granted my eligibility to play this season. This hasn’t been easy, but I’m looking forward to putting this in the past and moving forward. I always knew UNC was a special place, but it’s proved tiover and over again throuhgout the last few months. I’ve received so much support from the University, the atheltic depatment, my coaches, the staff and my teammates. Most of all, I’ve felt so much love from the fans. Whether it was people trying to pick me up on social media or fans chanting for me at the games, I’ve felt supproted and I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me. I can’t wait to put on that jersey, run out the tunnel, and play in Kenan Stadium. I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time and now it will be a reality. See everyoneon Saturday.”

Tez Walker

Prior to the start of the season, Walker had been named to the 2023 All-Atlantic Coast Conference preseason team and earned a spot on the Biletnikoff Award watch list, which honors the best receiver in college football.

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The Tar Heels have managed without Walker, starting the season with a perfect 4-0 record. They are currently ranked at No. 14 in the most recent AP Top 25 poll.

Walker now joins a Tar Heel team and hopes to be the final piece they need to make a run at the ACC Championship and possibly an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

UNC posted a video of the moment that Walker found out he was eligible.