Almost three weeks after captivating the nation with her pitching performance at the Little League World Series, 13-year-old pitcher Mo’ne Davis found herself at the center of a controversy.
During the Little League World Series, Davis made it known her dream is to play for the UConn women’s basketball team. Following the Little League World Series, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma sent the pitching phenom a congratulatory phone call only to have an unnamed school turn him in to the NCAA. On Thursday, the NCAA ruled that Auriemma’s phone call to the eighth grader was a secondary violation.
“I heard about that this morning, and it’s sad,” Davis said on Friday. “There wasn’t anything about recruiting in the call, he was just congratulating me.”
Auriemma made the phone call after contacting the university’s compliance office. Davis isn’t considered a recruitable student-athlete at this time. She is scheduled to enroll in college in the fall of 2019.
Davis, who stands 5-foot-4, became the first girl to throw a complete game shutout in the Little League World Series. The Philadelphia hurler became the youngest person ever to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Wednesday it was reported that an unnamed school turned in UConn head coach Geno Auriemma for his phone call to Philadelphia little leaguer Mo’ne Davis during the Little League World Series. Originally it was thought that, since Davis is in the eighth grade, the call did not violate any NCAA rules because she wasn’t considered to be a “recruitable athlete.” However that isn’t the case, and on Thursday it was reported by the Hartford Courant that the NCAA has determined the phone call to be a secondary violation of NCAA rules.
The phone call was deemed to be a violation of NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199, which states that in women’s basketball a phone call cannot be made to an individual (or their parent or guardian) prior to September 1 of their junior year of high school. The key word in that bylaw is “individual,” which has a broader definition than if the phrase “recruitable athlete” were used.
It’s safe to say that UConn athletic director Warde Manuel was none too thrilled with the NCAA’s decision, despite the fact that the “penalty” for most secondary violations is simply some more education on the rules.
“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.
“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.”
As noted above, a secondary violation isn’t a crippling blow to a program by any means. Maybe a conversation about how to not run afoul of certain rules will occur, but not much else.
This summer has been a busy one for 13-year old Mo’ne Davis, whose pitching exploits during her team’s run to the Little League World Series resulted in increased attention for the event. For Davis, the days following the LLWS have included a meeting with Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, throwing out the first pitch at a Dodger game and meeting both Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the just-completed WNBA Western Conference Finals.
What also came from Davis’ experiences with the Taney Dragons was the nation learning that she would like to play point guard at UConn when the time comes. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma got in touch with Davis, giving the Philadelphia native some words of encouragement during the LLWS. Yet while the conversation had been cleared as being well within NCAA rules since Davis isn’t considered to be a recruitable athlete at this time, an unnamed school reported UConn for a violation of NCAA rules.
Here’s what Auriemma had to say about the matter according to Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register:
“One of the funniest things I have ever heard. I will probably get in trouble for saying this but somebody from the Sixers called and contacted some friends I know and said this kid is great, this kid loves basketball and I think congratulations from Coach Auriemma would really go a long way to helping this kid,” Auriemma said. “I go and get contacted by some people with Little League World Series and say is it OK if she calls you. I said ‘how about I just call and you tell her I said congratulations.’ I call the office and (they said) ‘you know Coach, she is standing right here.’ I said ‘put her on the phone, I want to say congratulations.’ I say congratulations. She is 13 and the conversation lasts about two minutes and she hangs up. How about a school turned us in as a recruiting violation because we are not allowed to talk to her until July 1 of her junior year (of high school) but that is the world that we live in.
“It shows you what is wrong not only for things that go on but also with some of the people that I coach against.”
According to UConn, Davis wouldn’t be considered a recruitable athlete per NCAA rules until she begins high school. Davis will be an eighth grader this school year. It should also be noted that Auriemma stated that he’s never seen Davis play basketball.
Of all the things to report, an brief conversation between a coach and an eighth grader is taking things too far. How’s anyone to know what kind of basketball player Davis will be in a couple years? This appears to be one of those situations where the unnamed school (the school that reported the possible infraction doesn’t have to go public) could have simply gone on about its business.