When Geno Auriemma decided to congratulate 13-year-old phenom Mo'ne Davis on her spectacular pitching performance in the Little League World Series in August, he took precautions.
The University of Connecticut women's basketball coach thought ahead and asked the school’s compliance department if the call would have any ramifications with the NCAA, presumably since Mo'ne is a young, talented athlete with aspirations to play at the college level. The university allowed the conversation since Davis was not “considered a prospective student-athlete by the NCAA.” After all, the Little Leaguer is only in middle school, and assuming her game remains competitive into high school, she will likely be scouted for her 70 mph fastballs rather than her free throws.
But on Sept. 4, the NCAA cited UConn for a "secondary violation," referring to section 220.127.116.11 of its bylaws, which states that recruiting phone calls to prospective student-athletes cannot take place before July 1 of the student’s junior year in high school.
"The conversation lasted like two minutes and we hung up," Auriemma told the Hartford Courant. "And then I was told a school turned us in for a recruiting violation because we are not allowed [before] July 1 before her junior year of high school. ... That's the world that we live in."
Auriemma had called the Philadelphia teen ahead of her team’s semifinal game against Nevada on Aug. 21, in what he says was a favor asked of him by a friend who works for the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team.
After news of the violation went public on Thursday, UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel issued a statement saying the school will respect the NCAA’s ruling but does not agree with it.
“The nature of Coach Auriemma’s two-minute conversation with Mo’ne had nothing to do with recruiting and instead had everything to do with congratulating and encouraging Mo’ne to continued success,” Manuel said in the statement.
While there is not an exact date on when the phone call between Mo’ne and Auriemma took place, an earlier interview she had with ESPN may explain why a rival school took issue with the Little Leaguer’s exchange with UConn’s basketball coach.
“I want to go to UConn and be the point guard on the basketball team,” Mo'ne told ESPN in mid-August referring to the high-profile women's team that has been reigning national champions for the past two years. “That’s, like, my dream and then [to] go into the WNBA.”
NCAA secondary violations do not result in penalties, so UConn will most likely receive corrective action; that is, a letter of admonishment is sent and a specific recruit can be banned for a set amount of time, according to the Courant.
Auriemma said an athletic conference – he would not identify which one – acted on behalf of an NCAA member school to report and investigate the call. Multiple sources told the Courant Thursday that neither the Atlantic Coast Conference nor the American Athletic Conference was responsible.
Mo’ne made headlines when she became the first girl to pitch a shutout in Little League history. Her stellar performance led her team to become one of the final 16 contenders in the 2014 World Series. Her team, the Philadelphia Taney Dragons, eventually lost in an elimination game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to a Chicago team.