Chandler Zavala will return to NC State after NCAA overturns medical waiver decision

David Thompson
The Fayetteville Observer

RALEIGH — N.C. State offensive lineman Chandler Zavala confirmed with the USA TODAY Network that he will be allowed to return for his sixth year of athletic eligibility after the NCAA overturned its decision to deny his medical hardship waiver earlier this year.

Zavala said he was informed by the NCAA on Thursday of the decision.

"I feel great," he told the USA TODAY Network via text.

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NC State coach Dave Doeren, too, was happy to get the news. “So thankful for Chandler getting the opportunity to finish his career this fall!  It’s been a long process for him and he is such an incredible young man," Doeren said in a release from Wolfpack communications. "I am super appreciative to our compliance office, Boo Corrigan, and Chandler’s attorney for supporting and fighting for him.  I can’t wait to see #64 back on the grass with his brothers and coaches!”

Zavala's college career began in 2017, but he played only three games as a freshman due to a knee injury at Division II Fairmont State and did not play in 2020 after the entire Mountain East Conference canceled the season amid the pandemic. 

Zavala transferred to N.C. State before the 2021-22 season and suffered a season-ending back injury after five games. He needed minor surgery and has almost fully recovered. 

"It's been frustrating," Zavala told the USA TODAY Network earlier this year. "I only got four seasons in five years when everyone else got five seasons in five years. I don't see why I couldn't get an extension and get my COVID year back."

North Carolina State's Chandler Zavala prepares to guard against Clemson during the second half of their game in Raleigh Sept. 25, 2021. During the past year, Zavala almost lost his father and faced an uncertain future over his college career.

The NCAA granted a blanket waiver to all athletes in 2020-21 for an extra year of eligibility, but Zavala said he felt that was not applied to his situation. The medical waiver denied by the NCAA was sent to reclaim his freshman season at Fairmont State, not this past year with N.C. State. 

This story will be updated

David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.