CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The drama is finally over. Tez is back.
After missing the team’s first four games, the NCAA has reversed its decision against his immediate eligibility.
In a statement released by the NCAA earlier today, the organization seemed to blame UNC for not providing proper documentation – stating in their letter that the situation could have been completely avoided weeks ago.
“It is unfortunate that UNC failed to provide this important information previously,” the statement reads. “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.”
In response to the news today, UNC Athletics director Bubba Cunningham replied with a statement of his own.
“We are happy that Tez Walker is now eligible to play and enjoy doing what he loves to do. However, the justification provided by the NCAA today is not accurate. The University submitted all necessary information and documentation as it was made available to us at the time, and we still believe Tez met all standards for the waiver in early August. It is not clear why the NCAA delayed making the correct decision then, but we are pleased to get to the appropriate resolution now.”
Tez has continued to practice with the team as a scout member, adding depth to his game and making his teammates better – not losing faith in the wake of the final appeal denial.
He issued a letter of his own to NCAA president Charlie Baker on Sept. 1, one day before the team was scheduled to play their season-opener against South Carolina in Tez’s hometown, Charlotte, N.C.
Parts of it include, “Governor Baker, this makes so sense. During my time at NCCU, they never played a football game. COVID made them cancel our season. I appeal to your logic as a man and as a leader. Please, review my situation so I can achieve my dream as a student-athlete. Isn’t that what the NCAA is supposed to do? Help student athletes achieve their dreams.”
If you remember, his immediate eligibility was denied because of the two-time transfer rule, a denial that led to a more aggressive response from UNC’s football program and larger institution with a slew of appeals all of which were sent in an effort to have his eligibility for the season be reinstated. The issue even went up to the UNC Board of Trustees and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to discuss the situation.
And even after their involvement, it was still a no-go…Until today.
“We are elated at the resolution for Tez Walker and for all who supported him here at UNC-Chapel Hill,” Guskiewicz released in response to today’s statement. “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 matter 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.”
The tension around Tez and the NCAA’s decision has been brewing for over a month, as both Tar Heel fans and many around the country have criticized the organization for being inconsiderate of his situation.
Tez entered the transfer portal in December 2022 and enrolled in classes on Jan. 9th, leaping at the opportunity to play on a bigger stage and next to highly-skilled quarterback Drake Maye. But the rule was changed just two days later when the Division I Council moved to implement stricter multi-year transfer rules, a ruling that ultimately led to the events that have unfolded these past few weeks.
From fans at College GameDay donning “Free Tez” memorabilia and signs, to chants echoing throughout Kenan Stadium against App State and Minnesota, support for him was overflowing from all over.
However, his move to Chapel Hill was also a personal decision. Tez wanted to be closer to his grandmother, Loretta Black, who is yet to have seen him play college football. They both needed this.
“I’m so excited and thankful that the NCAA has granted my eligibility to play this season,” Tez said.” 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 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. See everyone on Saturday.”
These reasons make the reversal that much more significant and today sparks celebration not just for Tez and his family, but his football team.
With receivers like Nate McCollum, Kobe Paysour and J.J. Jones already making key plays this season, the arrival of Tez adds to the strength of an already potent receiving core.
“He’s long, he’s tall, he can run, he catches,” wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said back in early August. “He picks up the offense very well. He’s a great football player, in my opinion, just got added to the Biletnikoff Watch List,” (the award is presented each year to the nation’s best FBS receiver}.
That was an accolade he snatched up back in August – mere days before the NCAA denied his eligibility.
With Tez back in the mix, this offense is made better with increased depth and talent.
His first game as a Tar Heel is primed to be something different, and a powerful testimony against Syracuse this Saturday. So, get your popcorn ready.