NCAA Football: North Carolina at Wake Forest

No. 14 North Carolina received some long-awaited good news from the NCAA, which announced on Thursday that wide receiver Tez Walker has been granted a transfer waiver making him immediately eligible for the rest of 2023 season. Walker and North Carolina had fought for a waiver throughout the summer and fall due to the circumstances of his transfer, only to receive official word just before the start of the season that waiver would not be granted. In a release, however, the NCAA cited "new information" from UNC that led to the reversal of its long-standing decision. 

"I'm so excited and thankful that 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," Walker said in a statement. "I always knew UNC was a special place, but it's proved it over and over again throughout the last few months. I've received so much support from the University, the athletics department, 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 supported and I can't tell you how much it's meant to me. I can't wait to put on that jersey, run out of the tunnel, and play in Kenan Stadium. I've been dreaming of this for a long time and now it will be a reality."

Walker signed at East Tennessee State out of high school but was dropped after suffering a knee injury. Following a gap year, he enrolled at NC Central but never played in a season canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. That prompted a transfer to Kent State, where he played for two seasons and earned an All-MAC selection in 2022 after hauling in 921 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. 

Upon entering the portal, Walker rated as the No. 6 overall transfer and No. 2 wide receiver, according to 247Sports. He transferred to the Tar Heels and enrolled for the spring semester in January, just before the NCAA issued new guidelines that limited eligibility waivers for second-time transfers. The school then asked for a waiver given Walker's unique circumstances, arguing (among other things) that he only technically played for one other school. However, that waiver was denied in June. The university sought multiple avenues to get Walker eligible in time for the season but was left with a war of words between coach Mack Brown and members of the NCAA board.

"We were thrilled to find out earlier today that Tez Walker has been granted his immediate eligibility and will be available for the remainder of the 2023 season," said Brown in a statement. "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 ultimately deciding to grant him his eligibility. 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."

While North Carolina is celebrating Walker's ability to compete with his teammates on Saturday, the NCAA has laid the blame for the delayed decision at the feet of UNC. NCAA president Charlie Baker and University of Georgia president Jere Morehead, who serves as the chair of the Division I Board of Directors, released a joint statement claiming that if UNC had provided this new information weeks ago "this entire unfortunate episode could have been avoided." 

North Carolina returns to action after the off week on Saturday, hosting Syracuse.