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Heel Tough Blog: Walker Still Waiting For Appeal Decision

UNC Athletics

We are now within a week of the start of the Tar Heels 2023 football season as preparations continue for Saturday’s meeting with South Carolina in Charlotte. Those preparations on the offensive side of the ball involve Devontez Walker, the transfer wide receiver from Kent State, who’s currently appealing the NCAA’s decision to deny his eligibility waiver. With each passing day, nerves are growing around the program about this decision and when it will come down. Around the country, though, other appeal decisions are rolling in and setting the precedent for what direction Walker’s could go.

Hawai’i defensive tackle John Tuitupou won his appeal for an extra season of eligibility late on Friday night, less than 24 hours before the start of his team’s first game of their season against Vanderbilt. Tuitupou’s petition to the NCAA was based on a family situation just like Walker’s, but his petition was never officially denied the way Walker’s was. This is a situation that involves a player playing for the same school that he did a year ago, meaning it is hard to learn a lot from this decision other than the length of time that the NCAA is willing to make kids wait for a decision.

The rulings that might be more telling are the ones that have already come down on Florida State defensive tackle Darrell Jackson and Arizona State wide receiver Jake Smith. 247Sports national football writer Brad Crawford reported yesterday that he had corresponded with the family of Smith and they confirmed that he will not be able to play this season. The former Texas and USC receiver’s situation may be even more frustrating than Walker's or Jackson’s considering NCAA rules required him to transfer to play again at the college level after he medically retired and never played a snap for the Trojans.

As for Jackson, his appeal has also been denied according to Crawford. Jackson’s transfer to Florida State was to be close to his mother, who is dealing with an illness, similar to the situation that Walker is dealing with regarding his grandmother. Tallahassee, where Florida State is located, is less than 20 miles from Jackson’s mother and would have allowed him to be more involved in her care. Instead, Jackson will be sitting out this season due to the NCAA’s move to retroactively hold certain players accountable for a rule that wasn’t in place when they transferred.

Colorado’s Sy’Veon Wilkerson is the biggest reason to remain optimistic about Walker’s appeal. Wilkerson played at two schools, which is what the NCAA is trying to say Walker did, and even walked on at West Virginia for the spring of 2022 prior to landing at Jackson State. Similar to Walker, a coaching departure is a big part of the reason for his transfer, but you wonder if him following that coach played a factor here. Regardless, with the new rule, it is mind-blowing that he is eligible while others who have better arguments for eligibility are left wondering or already deemed ineligible for the season.

Mack Brown spoke to the media on Monday to update with where things are at. "We haven't heard anything. We're still waiting. There's a little bit more of the process that needs to be done. Hopefully we'll hear something in the next couple of days and we can finalize the process and he'll be eligible to play." One can only wonder what more has to be done in this process with the game now just five days away.

At this point, it’s hard to get a great feel for how this thing will work out for Walker. His situation is basically a combination of the three transfer situations that we chronicled above and the hope is that the situation works out like Wilkerson’s did. In the meantime, the Tar Heels seem to be preparing as if they will have him for the opener, a risk that could end up hurting them if he can’t go. Let’s hope there is a resolution early this week.


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