clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UNC Football: Tez Walker’s ineligibility is yet another example of the NCAA’s incompetence

The NCAA has managed to hit a new low while doing something many thought impossible: uniting fan bases.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought the NCAA couldn’t stoop any lower.

My bad: at this point is anyone actually surprised that the NCAA could stoop lower? The same organization that for years told players that cream cheese was an extra benefit really is capable of anything.

The latest chapter was written on Wednesday when it was announced that Tez Walker would be denied his ability to play immediately after transferring to UNC in January. Walker, along with FSU DT Darrell Jackson, were seeking to be able to play immediately despite having already transferred once before. Never mind that the NCAA hasn’t had any issues letting graduate transfers play for their third school — which by the way they shouldn’t have an issue with. They decided that a couple of players looking to play closer to home near sick relatives was just one step too far. Too far into what we have no idea.

We won’t delve into Jackson here, mostly because to some extent his case is a hair more understandable. That said, he should play, because anyone who’s Google Mapped Miami to Tallahassee knows it’s not exactly a quick trip. It’s also a slightly different case, but he should play.

As far as Walker goes, though, clearly the hypocrisy is on full display with the NCAA. Anyone who has taken five minutes to understand Walker’s story and journey understands that his move to UNC isn’t just about playing at a higher profile program — it’s about someone who has had to overcome a ridiculous amount of bad luck just to get on the field. He finally wants to do something multiple other players have done and choose a school for the purpose of: play in front of their family. The NCAA cares about their “student-athletes,” as long as they shut up and play. One could argue they don’t even care that far.

It’s tempting to go full conspiracy theory on this — that the NCAA is so upset that they can’t do anything to calm down the conference realignment mess the schools are creating that they’ll seize power wherever they can, but frankly that just gives them way too much credit. Instead, it’s just an organization that has gotten so used to the fact that they had universal power to tell players that they can’t play that they are unable to adapt to changing times.

Tez’s situation is a perfect example of this. The NCAA felt like after the transfer portal window of 2022 that something needed to happen to “rein it in.” On its own, the argument about the merit behind this change is actually valid. There seemed to be an excess of players trying to get an exemption, and the NCAA felt it was time to calm that down. They had given up too much with opening the portal and had been hearing complaints about how many players had been able to just up and leave.

The problem is the lack of common sense. The NCAA decided this rule should be in effect for the 2023-24 season after a ton of players had already transferred. They couldn’t fathom that they’d run into this situation where a player had transferred under the old rule and then have to work with a new one. Sure enough, they caught a player in a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed them to flex their power.

I think it’s worth pointing out the coaching move again by the way. Folks are harping on the fact that Tez only played at one school despite being enrolled at three. The impetus that spurred Tez to start looking, though, was the coach that convinced him to leave Charlotte for Ohio had decided to move on. The NCAA knows this has been an issue trapping students and in fact allows students to transfer when their head coach leaves. It’s the reason Hubert Davis was able to get James Okonkwo to join the basketball team after the portal had closed.

It’s also worth noting that Walker has a grandmother who can’t travel, so being close to home is ideal, as shown by the fact his previous two schools were within driving distance to Charlotte. So yeah, he’s totally trying to game the system and should have to suffer by not being on the field for another year. Just another excuse for a big school to steal a player from a little school.

UNC appears confident that Walker will win his appeal, and his story has drawn a ridiculous amount of coverage. Between multiple ESPN reporters talking about it, the Governor of North Carolina writing a letter and appearing on multiple UNC podcasts saying he thinks it’s an injustice, and multiple coaches and fan bases speaking out, the NCAA has created yet another self-inflicted PR nightmare. With that and the good case Tez has, they should realize it’s best to let him play and let this die down.

But that’s the problem with the NCAA, isn't it? There had been some hope that new President Charlie Baker, a politician, could inject some common sense into an organization that had been run by college administrators for so long. Surely someone who knows what it’s like to go up against the government bureaucracy of Massachusetts could handle the NCAA and keep them from continuing to impale themselves.

Yeah, about that.

Read that again. The NCAA knew that they implemented a rule after multiple players transferred, and decided to go by it anyway. The people making decisions are so used to not being challenged. It’s fundamentally broken as an organization and they’ve effectively neutered their new President just months into the job. What’s amazing is how after multiple high profile failures, the NCAA continues to recreate this:

As it is, they have done one thing: gotten people on UNC’s side. Considering what people thought about the school versus the NCAA six years ago is in itself remarkable. It speaks to just how well UNC has handled the situation to get Tez’s story out and use the media’s dislike of the NCAA to their advantage. Here’s hoping common sense steps in soon so that this particular story disappears.

Knowing the NCAA, though, no one should hold their breath, rather, just watch your rakes.