Having heard that 13-year-old Little League World Series sensation Mo'ne Davis is a big UConn women's basketball fan, coach Geno Auriemma took the time to call the star pitcher to congratulate her on leading her team to the U.S. semifinals.
What a thoughtful gesture by Auriemma, right? Well, apparently not everybody thinks so.
The NCAA ruled Thursday that Auriemma had committed a secondary recruiting violation by calling Davis because coaches are not permitted to call a prospect until late in their junior year of high school. Secondary violations carry little if any punishment because they are typically inadvertent in nature and represent no significant competitive advantage.
Auriemma told the Hartford Courant on Wednesday that the potential violation came to light when a rival school filed a complaint with the American Athletic Conference. UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement that, while the school accepts the NCAA's decision, it vehemently disagrees with it.
"Prior to attempting to reach Davis, Coach Auriemma checked with the UConn compliance department and was advised such a call would be permissible since Davis is not considered a prospective student-athlete by the NCAA and the call was to be congratulatory rather than recruiting in nature," Manuel said.
"While UConn will continue to adhere to the NCAA and conference rules, I believe that upon request from a friend to Geno, a proud Philadelphian, to call a young lady representing the City of Brotherly Love who had accomplished historic feats in the Little League World Series, should not constitute a violation especially due to the fact that NCAA rules do not classify Mo'ne as a prospective student-athlete.
"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's anger is understandable because, while UConn's punishment is negligible, there should be no penalty at all. This is merely a rival school taking advantage of a poorly worded NCAA rule to twist an innocent good deed into something nefarious.
If Auriemma broke the letter of the law, he certainly didn't violate its spirit. Though Davis plays basketball and dreams of starring for UConn someday, Auriemma told the Courant neither he nor anyone he knows has seen the eighth grader play before.
Ultimately, a petty complaint like this corroborates a few widely believed theories: Coaches are paranoid about every conceivable edge in recruiting, Auriemma is not well-liked among some of his coaching peers and his rivals will go to extreme lengths to try to knock him off his pedestal.
Hopefully the accusing coach gets revealed before this story fades away. It's always helpful to be able to separate the crazy from the competitive, and whoever brought this to the American Athletic Conference's attention is probably more the former than the latter.
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