Walker still waits NCAA clearance

The news on the Twitter circuit Monday and Tuesday had Chris Walker cleared by the NCAA to play basketball Saturday when 6th-ranked Florida (15-2, 4-0 SEC) plays host to Tennessee (11-6, 2-2 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. As pleasant a thought as that might be given what Walker has had to go through so far in an attempt to become eligible to play for the Gators, it’s just not true according to Florida coach Billy Donovan.

“As it relates to Chris, just listen to us and our school,” Donovan said Tuesday afternoon when asked if there was any truth to the rumor that Walker had been cleared. “I’m not going to address it anymore. Certainly we’re hopeful he gets back soon, but there’s been no indication that there’s any truth to that at all. Whenever he gets cleared – and certainly we all hope it’s soon, believe me – I’m not going to throw a guy in a game and have him pop up and you guys not be aware of it. The minute he gets eligible, cleared and he’s able to play, I’ll let you know. Anything else that’s out there about that is not true.”

Walker has been enrolled at Florida since the day after final exams in December. He is attending classes and practices daily but he has not been allowed to play in a game. While people who have known Walker for some time indicate the holdup has something to do with things that happened on the AAU circuit in the summer before Walker’s senior year at Holmes County High School (Bonifay, Florida), Donovan says that he is unaware of all the details involved in the situation.

“The hardest part for me is I don’t know all the details because it doesn’t involve our institution,” Donovan said. “I’m just focusing on our team, the guys that are here right now and letting our administration handle it. I have not been privy to any conversations between the NCAA, our school, Chris or any of those other things.”

Donovan has kept Walker’s focus on learning the offense and defense, getting in game condition and helping the 6-10 McDonald’s All-American adjust to life as a college student, both on and off the court.

“The only thing I’ve been trying to do with Chris is each and every day trying to help him get better as a player, provide the resources he needs academically, try to work with him on the court to get better,” Donovan said. “In terms of all the details and hang ups, I don’t know all those details because when there’s something going on like this, there’s ethical conduct forms that are signed. That stuff has to be kept confidential, be kept between Chris and the NCAA, kept between our administration and the NCAA.


“I’m not involved in any of those conversations. I trust our administration and what they’re doing. Hopefully it will be resolved in a timely fashion. I know everyone is involved one way or another to know what’s going to happen.”

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. Best line in the article is about Billy helping Chris adjust to college life on and off the court. Finally this kid has someone in his corner who can mentor and help him become a great basketball player and even better person. Billy is a great basketball coach but also one hell of a life coach to his players. I remember hearing Noah talk about just laying on the couch in Billy’s office and talking to him about life. Thats what I love about Billy Donovan.