NCAA announces suspension of Florida Gators forward Chris Walker, clears him to play Tuesday

Updated at 4:15 p.m.

Florida Gators freshman forward Chris Walker will finally be able to step foot on a court more than a full month into 2014 as the NCAA has officially cleared him to play his first career college basketball game next Tuesday,

“We’re glad there’s a resolution for everyone involved, especially for Chris,” said head coach Billy Donovan in a subsequent statement. “We appreciate everyone’s participation in this process and are ready to move forward.”

As OnlyGators.com first reported on Dec. 14, Walker was told upon receiving his academic clearance not to expect to play in a game until January.

However, the NCAA’s delay in clearing Walker lasted longer than most everyone – especially the player and many involved with the program – expected.

RELATED: Donovan upbeat about Walker’s progress, cautions he’s not a savior

Minutes after Walker’s clearance was first reported by ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman, the NCAA released a explanatory statement regarding the situation and his suspension.

Men’s basketball student-athlete Chris Walker will be eligible to play for the University of Florida on Feb. 4 after sitting a total of 12 games, or 40 percent of the 2013-14 basketball season. Walker received preferential treatment from five people, including two agents. In addition, Walker will be required to donate the $270 received from the agents to a charity of his choice and serve 80 hours of community service for the remaining benefits received.

According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the university and NCAA staff, when Walker was a prospect, he accepted free cell phones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel. Additionally, individuals close to Walker received free airfare and lodging for nine different trips, including eight associated with Walker’s non-scholastic basketball team competitions.

“The NCAA membership has expressed continued concern about how third-party influence, improper agent involvement and the role of nonscholastic basketball impact student-athletes and prospects,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs. “Out of concern for student-athletes’ wellbeing, our members have created rules that limit the involvement of these individuals. The 12 games Mr. Walker was required to sit out reflect the significance of these violations.”

Florida filed for reinstatement for Walker late Jan. 21. The NCAA then worked with Florida to finalize the facts until today’s decision.


Walker, a five-star prospect and consensus top 10-ranked player in the nation coming out of high school, was not academically eligible to play for the Gators in the fall but worked hard to achieve the necessary grades before joining the team after the conclusion of the semester on Dec. 14. He spent the weeks prior training in Ocala, FL.

He has already missed 10 games but will sit for two more before being able to step onto the hardwood. Florida plays at Mississippi State on Thursday and hosts Texas A&M on Saturday. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, UF faces Missouri in Gainesville, FL. The nationally-televised game will air live on ESPN.

“I appreciate all the support from UF, Coach Donovan and my teammates, and I’m looking forward to helping the team any way I can,” said Walker in a school release.

Despite the extended wait, the Gators are now only a couple days away from utilizing his athleticism and natural ability to strengthen its frontcourt depth.

Though Walker (6-foot-10, 220 pounds) will be playing in his first career college game next Tuesday, he is unlikely to be handed heavy minutes from the get-go. Donovan is expected to work him into the rotation and give him additional court time as he earns it both with his effort in practice and on the floor during games.

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19 Responses to “NCAA announces suspension of Florida Gators forward Chris Walker, clears him to play Tuesday”

  1. Tractorr says:

    YES!

  2. bwright22 says:

    Oh Happy Days!! Do you think Billy D is crying with joy???

  3. Timmy T says:

    Hell yeah! Lets see it.

  4. John says:

    Thats ridiculous…… You give him his 2 game suspension…. after you already suspended him 10 games?????

  5. Joe says:

    Gator’s Basketball. Fantastic!!

  6. gatorboi352 says:

    $270. All this crap over $270?!?!

    Man, the NCAA can die in a dumpster fire.

    Also, how come none of the other 4 players that did this EXACT SAME THING that Walker did get any grief whatsoever?

  7. hilldw says:

    Positive Gator news, I love it.

    In their statement, the NCAA seemed to indicate that UF was the cause of the delay in determining Walker’s status. I am sure the athletic department did their due diligence in working to clear him. I wonder why the petition for reinstatement wasn’t sent in until the 21st.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I think you’re misreading into that. The inference I draw is that once UF learned about his suspension (probably on the 21st), then we moved immediately to have him reinstated, and then the compromise of a 12 game suspension was reached with the NCAA. I strongly doubt that UF did anything to slow this process and the timing of the 21st coincides with Donovan’s recent upbeat comments regarding Chris being able to play.

  8. Ken (CA) says:

    Sounds like other people got more benefit out of who he is than he did. How about the NCAA go after the 2 agents that did all the illegal giving? Bar them from any NCAA santioned campus or something, even though they could still contact, make their lives more dificult and clear to prospects they are dirty

  9. KB says:

    There is no rhyme or reason as to how the NCAA comes up with the punishment for deemed penalties. I guarantee you could have the same case against another student athlete and the punishment is completely different. So he received $270, airfare, meals, and apparel all of which occurred prior to him being a student athlete attending the University of Florida for which none of the preferential treatment was implied as having anything to do with his recruitment at the school he chose to attend. Why does the NCAA care or see fit to punish for something not tied to his recruitment or while he was a student athlete? Because they can and when they have a chance to look like they are policing and enforcing the burgeoning and out dated rulebook then this is what you get. Meantime Bama has recruits flashing money (also a player admitting to accepting illegal benefits from an agent go between while a student athlete) and a coach who stepped down for a giving a kid money. I guarantee that Bama faces no penalties but yet the same thing could happen at another institution and sanctions levied and ruling would be completely different. The hypocrisy of the NCAA is overwhelming and an overhauling is long overdue. “Out of concern for the student athlete” is laughable in the statement issued by the NCAA. NCAA does what they feel is in their best interest and nothing will change unless the institutions demand change.

  10. Michael Jones says:

    Oh happy day!!! Chris Walker gets to play at last!! Can’t wait to see him in orange and blue. I’ve got a hunch that we’re going to love this kid. He has worked hard for this opportunity and seems talented, humble, and hungry. I love that combination!!

    Let’s don’t expect too much from him too soon. Let him grow into it. I’m sure Young, Yeguete, and Harris are beating him up and teaching him real good in practice every day!! Ha ha (forgive me if I’m a little giddy). Our most important games and his best basketball lie ahead.

    Great job, Coach Donovan, in continuing to represent our university and handling your business with class.

    Baaaaa nah nah nah nah. . . . . . GO GATORS!!!

  11. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Happy Dance!!

  12. Will W says:

    This is such a little weenie move by the NCAA. Two more games, what a sham operation they are.

  13. aziatic41 says:

    Walker will provide UF with immediate frontcourt athleticism. This kid is a big time athlete and exciting player and this is just what the Gators are currently missing. If Billy can get him into the rotation without disrupting team chemistry watch out for an already very good Gator team!

  14. hollerific says:

    So does him sitting out a lot of this season in any way affect the chance that he will jump into the NBA next year?

    Does it make him ineligible to jump to the NBA or is a year removed from High School however it is spent still make him eligible to go into the NBA draft?

    I really would like to see him stay another year, or even more!!! :)

    Go Gators!

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