UT-UConn banter heats up

Pat Summitt is terrific at marketing her Lady Vols program and women's basketball in general. She has rarely been criticized for anything. But she's taken a black eye nationally for not revealing her reasons for discontinuing the series against Connecticut.

And she doesn't care.

``I made my decision and it's something I feel good about,'' Summitt said, weeks after dropping UConn from the schedule. ``I know it's not a popular decision, but I've never been one to try to win a popularity contest. I'm just trying to do my job.''

It's becoming more and more evident that UT dropped UConn because the Lady Vols feel the Huskies weren't recruiting properly. A number of UT's concerns have been publicized in articles. One signee said she picked UConn because she had lunch in coach Geno Auriemma's office with former UConn stars Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.

That would be an NCAA violation.

Fans have made posters greeting recruits on official visits.

That's a violation.

Taurasi attacked UT because she said one allegation made by UT and the SEC against UConn was that Taurasi and Bird offered a ride to an awards show to recruit Maya Moore while in Atlanta after the Final Four. Moore signed with UConn over UT.

Taurisa said she was in Moscow at the time of the alleged incident, then scolded UT by saying you should get your facts right before making a charge.

``It's irresponsible to say something like that,'' Taurasi said.

Perhaps Taurasi should heed her own advice.

Joan Cronan, UT women's athletic director, said Taurasi's account is the first time she's heard that story. In other words, UT didn't turn UConn in over that incident.

So, where did Taurasi get her story?

Who knows?

But if Cronan is telling the truth – and I believe she is – then Taurasi is the one who is irresponsible for making her comments. She is the one who should get her facts straight. And she should reveal who told her of these allegations.

Pat Summitt still declines comment on why the series was ended. Asked when she might go public, Summitt said: ``I don't know that I will.''

Cronan has gone public. She gave three reasons: One, UT fans putting too much emphasis on the UConn game; two, strained relations between the programs; three, the recruitment of Moore.

If UConn officials claim they don't know why UT pulled the series, don't buy it. Summitt has told Auriemma. Cronan has told Jeff Hathaway, UConn's athletic director.

UConn officials might not like the reasons, but they know the reasons.

As for Summitt, I'd like to hear what she has to say about stopping the series.

But she's built up enough equity, enough good will to where I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. As a curious reporter, I want to know. But I'm sure she has a logical reason for making the call that she did.

She's spent a lifetime of making tough calls – and most of them have been right.

PEARL'S RECRUITMENT OF SMITH

There was an interesting quote attributed to Tennessee Vols basketball Bruce Pearl in an article written by Andy Katz of ESPN.com.

Katz is writing about how Tennessee is the clearcut favorite to win the SEC, in part because of Iowa transfer Tyler Smith.

Katz talks about how Pearl recruited Smith while Smith was in high school. Pearl said he discovered a couple of things UT did wrong during the recruiting process that caused a booster to be banned.

``We had to declare Tyler ineligible for us to recruit and I refused his letter of intent,'' Pearl said.

Pearl actually declined to release Smith from his national letter. Smith was so determined not to play for Pearl, he reportedly did poorly in some classes to make sure he wouldn't be academically eligible so he could attend a prep school and void his national letter.

DIAMOND VOLS HELP BANK ACCOUNT

Former Tennessee baseball players J.P. Arencibia and James Adkins have signed nice deals that have helped their bank accounts.

Arencibia, taken with the 21st pick by Toronto, signed for $1.3275 million.

Adkins, taken 39th by the Dodgers, signed for $790,000.

What's the minimum Major League salary for a rookie?: $380,000.

That ranks third among major pro sports teams. The rookie NFL minimum is $450,000. The NBA rookie minimum is $427,000. The NHL rookie minimum is $280,000.


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