Thirteen-year-old Little Leaguer Mo'ne Davis rose to stardom because of her work on the mound, but now she has been caught up in an NCAA basketball caper from out of left field.
According to the Hartford Courant, an unnamed school filed an official complaint to the American Athletic Conference saying a congratulatory phone call by Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma to Davis violated recruiting rules. On Thursday, the NCAA ruled that Auriemma committed a secondary violation.
Auriemma, who had checked with the school's compliance department before the call, has maintained he did nothing wrong.
"I have no idea if the kid is very good, kind of good, not good at all or a superstar or can even reach the basket," he told the Courant. "How is that a violation?"
Davis, 13, became a nationwide phenomenon when Philadelphia's Taney Dragons made it to the Little League World Series on the strength of her pitching. Davis has said her dream is to play for the Huskies and then in the WNBA, and she has worn a Connecticut sweat shirt in public.
Auriemma said he talked with Davis for two minutes to congratulate her on her performance. He said he planned to leave a message for Davis with the Little League's communications office, but she happened to be in the room when he called.
"There are guys playing college basketball driving around in cars worth more than my house," Auriemma said, "and we're worried about a phone call to a little girl?"
NCAA rules prohibit contact with a women's basketball recruit before Sept. 1 of their junior year. Connecticut thought Davis wouldn't be considered a prospective athlete because she hasn't entered high school and believed it would be further protected because the call wasn't "recruiting in nature," according to Athletic Director Warde Manuel.
Recent NCAA rule changes now give schools more leeway with their current athletes, but rules governing recruiting remain byzantine. The Davis complaint is the latest in a tradition of effectively harmless violations.
In 2011, a Kentucky football staffer "was issued a letter of admonishment" after he violated NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. He had used the stadium's ribbon board to show highlights to a recruit. Only the scoreboard is allowed.
In 2012, Oklahoma assistant coach Bruce Kittle pocket-dialed a football recruit, according to the Oklahoman newspaper. After that, the entire staff was barred from initiating contact with the recruit for four weeks, and the recruit declared ineligible pending NCAA reinstatement.
Even a reporter was once complicit in a violation. Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman happened upon a group of recruits in the waning moments of a Boise State football game and asked them some questions. Schools are not allowed to have media present when they contact a recruit. When Boise State found out about the short interview, it reported itself.
There are always areas open for interpretation. Earlier this year, as reported by the Associated Press, South Carolina self-reported an apparent violation for giving recruits cookie cakes, which were illegally iced. An NCAA rule bans "decorative items." The NCAA reviewed the case and deemed it was not a violation.
So maybe Connecticut would've been better off sending a pastry.