Sources say Moore's visit to ESPN was secondary rules violation

Updated: March 14, 2008, 8:48 PM ET
By Shelley Smith | ESPN.com

The University of Connecticut committed a secondary rules violation during the recruitment of star freshman Maya Moore, two sources familiar with the NCAA violation told ESPN.

Moore, a two-time national high school player of the year, received improper benefits during an unofficial recruiting visit in October, 2005 when UConn's coaching staff arranged for her to take a tour of ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., the sources said. In a statement, UConn said it has received no penalties. The NCAA refused to comment about the case or whether penalties might still be in the offing.

ESPN acknowledged that it "obliged" UConn when the women's basketball office requested a tour for Moore and her mother. ESPN said it has now changed its policies on such tour requests.

"To avoid future incidents, our tour policy will now prohibit high school athletes from receiving tours at the request of a college or university athletic official," ESPN said in a statement.

The tour constituted an impermissible benefit, one source with knowledge of the infractions process said.

Bob Williams, managing director of public and media relations for the NCAA, refused to comment on the UConn violation. In general, he said an extra benefit would be anything that is given to a potential recruit that is not offered to all students at the university.

It is unclear whether UConn also self-reported Moore's ESPN tour. In a statement released Wednesday afternoon UConn said, "The institution has worked with the NCAA on this matter and the association has taken no action."

The two sources said the NCAA launched its investigation after receiving a complaint from the Southeastern Conference. The SEC asked the NCAA to investigate the allegation that UConn had arranged the ESPN tour after the conference received a complaint from the University of Tennessee. At the time, Tennessee was also recruiting Moore, who starred at Collins Hill High School in Suwannee, Ga.

In June, Tennessee made public that the regular-season series between UConn and Tennessee women's basketball programs was ending. Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt said she made the decision to end the series along with the school president and women's athletic director. The series started in 1995 and was eagerly anticipated by hardcore and casual women's basketball fans.

A spokesman for Tennessee said neither athletic director Joan Cronan nor Summitt would comment.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma responded last summer to Tennessee canceling the game. Referring to Summitt, he told the Hartford Courant, "I think she should just come out and say she's not playing us because she hates my guts. And I think people would buy that. Then everyone [who seeks a reason] would be happy. She should just say that [Geno is] a dope, a smart-ass and then everyone could say that they agree with her."

Auriemma declined to speak with ESPN about the cancellation of the series or his relationship with Summitt saying, "anything to do with her I want nothing to do with it."

Shelley Smith is a Los Angeles-based reporter for ESPN television

Shelley Smith

SportsCenter correspondent
Shelley Smith joined ESPN in January 1997 after working part-time as a reporter for the network since 1993. She has covered Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, the BCS championship game, the Stanley Cup playoffs, golf and tennis championships and more.