The NCAA Division I board chair and vice-chair said in a statement Tuesday that “violent and possibly criminal threats” have been directed at committee members in the wake of a high-profile decision denying immediate eligibility for North Carolina receiver Tez Walker.
In the statement, Division I board chair/Georgia president Jere Morehead and vice-chair/Evansville president Christopher Pietruszkiewicz also said they were “troubled” by public remarks North Carolina leaders have made about the case. Coach Mack Brown and athletic director Bubba Cunningham both slammed the decision last week in pointed comments taking direct aim at the NCAA.
Morehead and Pietruszkiewicz said in their statement the national office is coordinating with law enforcement on the threats and “will continue to do whatever possible to support the volunteers who serve on these committees.”
A committee of NCAA Division I representatives denied Walker’s final effort at eligibility for the 2023 season on Thursday.
“The Division I Board of Directors believes that NCAA staff and the committee are applying transfer waiver guidelines as intended by member schools and giving proper and full consideration to individual cases, including consulting a panel of licensed mental health experts for cases in which mental health is cited as a reason for transfer,” their statement said. “The DI Board last year directed the DI Council to refine the guidelines for transfer waivers and apply those guidelines to the 2023-24 academic year. These new guidelines were supported unanimously by all 32 Division I conferences in January, and prior to that were widely supported by member schools and coaches associations.”
Walker, who previously was enrolled at NC Central and Kent State, believes he should be allowed to play this year for two reasons. He was unable to play at NC Central because the pandemic canceled the season, and transferred to Kent State. Walker also cites mental health reasons for his decision to transfer from Kent State to North Carolina to be closer to his Charlotte home and his grandmother.
In the statement, Morehead and Pietruszkiewicz said, “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.”
Their statement goes on to make pointed comments directed at North Carolina for waging a “public relations campaign” against the NCAA. For over a month, Brown has been publicly lobbying for the NCAA to approve Walker’s waiver.
Brown said after the final verdict was announced last week, “I don’t know that I’ve ever been more disappointed in a person, a group of people, or an institution than I am with the NCAA right now. 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. 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.”
Morehead and Pietruszkiewicz said 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. We are a membership organization, and 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.”
The North Carolina board of trustees met Monday in a closed emergency session to hear from in-house and outside legal counsel about possible options for Walker to take. No timetable for a decision has been made.