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NCAA DI Board 'troubled' by statements from UNC leadership, Brown responds

Bubba Cunningham, UNC's athletic director, listens as Allan Blattner, director of Carolina Housing, speaks during a Faculty Athletics Committee meeting in South Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. “I think in my mind our relationship with athletics is very strong,” Blattner said.

On Wednesday morning, North Carolina football head coach Mack Brown made a surprise appearance at a regularly scheduled UNC football media availability. He said he wasn't going to bring up UNC junior wide receiver Tez Walker but, naturally “figured” the media would ask him.

“The only thing that's important here is what's best for Tez Walker,” Brown said. “This is not about me, this is not about anything else other than his well-being.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors released a statement regarding the public remarks from UNC leadership in response to the board’s decision to deny Walker’s eligibility for the 2023-2024 season.

“The DI Board is troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership,” Chair Jere Morehead and Vice Chair Christopher Pietruszkiewicz wrote in their statement. “Those comments directly contradict what we and our fellow Division I members and coaches called for vociferously – including UNC's own football coach.” 

Morehead and Pietruszkiewicz wrote that the NCAA is aware of “violent” and “possibly criminal” threats directed at committee members involved in decision-making over transfer waivers. They added that the NCAA’s office is working with law enforcement in response to those threats. 

After Walker’s appeal hearing last Thursday, Brown, Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released individual statements on X to express their disappointment with the decision.

The NCAA changed its guidelines regarding transfer waivers in an attempt to cut down on the number of players who enter the transfer portal. The statement from the DI Board said the new guidelines for transfer waivers were supported unanimously by all 32 DI conferences.

At a press conference after a spring football practice in April, Brown voiced his support for changes to the NCAA’s transfer rules.

Two days after Walker began his spring classes at UNC, the NCAA changed the guidelines for two-time transfers so that a player could only transfer and be immediately eligible in the case of danger to an athlete’s well-being or because of exigent circumstances. 

“As has been documented, Tez should be eligible for several reasons, not the least of which is the mental health issues he’s faced during his time in college,” Brown said in his statement on X last Thursday.

The statement from the DI Board said that the appeal committee consults “a panel of licensed mental health experts” for individual cases in which mental health is cited as a reason for transfer.

“Citing extenuating factors, such as mental health, does not necessarily support a waiver request but instead may, in some situations, suggest a student-athlete should be primarily focused on addressing those critical issues during the initial transition to a third school,” the statement read.

On Monday, the UNC Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting to receive legal advice on an “athletics matter.” In his Monday morning press conference, Brown said the purpose of the meeting was to review options for Walker.

Brown and Cunningham attended the emergency BOT meeting but did not speak with the media afterward. Guskiewicz, who did not mention Walker by name, said afterward that it was “an important meeting where we received some legal updates that will help inform us as we do everything possible to support our student-athletes here at Carolina.”

“Rather than pursue a public relations campaign that can contribute to a charged environment for our peers who volunteer on committees, we encourage members to use established and agreed upon procedures to voice concerns and propose and adopt rule or policy changes if they are dissatisfied,” Morehead and Pietruszkiewicz wrote. 

Guskiewicz declined to comment on the NCAA’s statement on Tuesday.


@dthsports |

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