NCAA board 'troubled' by Mack Brown's callout after ruling a North Carolina player ineligible for 2023

North Carolina has not been shy in voicing its displeasure with the NCAA's decision-making

The NCAA’s Division I Board said Tuesday that it is “troubled” by comments made by North Carolina coach Mack Brown and others at the university last week after the association denied a waiver for Tar Heels wide receiver Devontez Walker to play in 2023.

The board said that it was aware of “violent — and possibly criminal threats” that had been directed at committee members and was “coordinating with law enforcement.” It did not provide any other specifics. The statement went on to call out Brown in the final paragraph after Brown said he did not know if he’d “ever been more disappointed in a person, a group of people or an institution than I am with the NCAA” after Walker’s transfer waiver was denied.

Brown ended his statement by saying “Shame on you NCAA, SHAME ON YOU!” In a separate statement, North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the NCAA had made “a maddening, frustrating and wrong decision — for Tez, for college football and college athletics.” North Carolina’s chancellor even said the school was “deeply disappointed” in the NCAA’s ruling.

“The DI Board is troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership,” the NCAA’s statement said. “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.”

It’s worth noting that any future rule or policy changes would not change the fact that Walker is ineligible to play for the Tar Heels in 2023. The junior wide receiver transferred to North Carolina over the offseason from Kent State. It was his second transfer after he transferred from North Carolina Central to play at Kent State after FCS-level NC Central never played its 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the North Carolina Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting to discuss its legal options to help Walker see the field this season, but no decisions were made.

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 09: North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown looks to the scoreboard during the college football game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Appalachian State Mountaineers on September 9, 2023 at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. (Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mack Brown had harsh words for the NCAA after WR Devontez Walker's transfer waiver was denied again last week. (Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Walker cited stress and anxiety from his grandmother’s health problems

The NCAA initially denied Walker’s request for a waiver to be immediately eligible at UNC in August before the school unsuccessfully appealed that decision.

After the waiver was first denied, the Charlotte native said in a school statement that he transferred from Kent State because of “the stress and anxiety I was feeling being away from my home while my grandmother deals with health issues. She is my rock, my everything, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. She took care of me when I was younger and being away from her and the rest of my family was very challenging and hard to deal with.”

In its statement Tuesday, the NCAA indirectly addressed what Walker said in that statement and said that mental health factors being cited in transfer waivers may be a sign that a player should worry more about his or her well-being than playing sports.

“Academic data demonstrates that transferring typically slows student-athletes' progress toward a degree, especially with those who transfer later,” the NCAA’s statement said. “It stands to reason that multiple transfers would further slow time to a degree. 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.”

Walker initially signed with East Tennessee State out of high school before he tore an ACL and had his enrollment deferred to the spring. He never went to ETSU and instead enrolled at NC Central before the school’s 2020 season was canceled. He had 58 catches for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns at Kent State in 2022 and was expected to play a major role in the Tar Heels’ offense in 2023.

He was on the sidelines for the team’s Week 1 win over South Carolina as he awaited a final ruling from the NCAA and Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye even wore Walker’s jersey for postgame interviews.