Ricky Moore made only one trip home to Augusta during his freshman year at Connecticut.
That trip, which came in early October 1995, apparently caused university officials to declare him ineligible Thursday.
The former Westside High School basketball star and teammate Kirk King will miss at least Sunday's nationally televised home game against top-ranked Kansas. Officials from Connecticut and the Big East Conference are investigating accusations the two players received improper gifts.
Published reports Thursday said King, the team's senior captain and starting center, and Moore accepted airline tickets in 1995.
Dorothy Moore, the player's mother, said her son has confirmed he accepted a free roundtrip airline ticket from Hartford to Augusta shortly before the start of his first fall practice at the school. She said the ticket came from an unidentified friend of Ray Allen, the former UConn star now in his rookie season with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.
According to Mrs. Moore, the friend was an agent pursuing Allen. Her son didn't realize this, she said, until after accepting the trip home.
"When you're a long way from home, you buddy up with someone and you think they're your friend," said Mrs. Moore, who spoke with Ricky by telephone Wednesday night. "He said he didn't know the guy was Ray's agent. I told him he has to take his knocks. He knew better. Ricky already was aware things like that could happen."
If the airline ticket was the only thing Moore accepted, his long-term eligibility probably won't be compromised. Typically, the NCAA asks the player to reimburse the donor for the cost of the ticket and a short suspension is handed down.
A Delta Airlines agent said Thursday that a 21-day advance flight roundtrip from Hartford to Augusta cost $471.
"I'm hoping the ticket is all that Ricky accepted," Mrs. Moore said. "I asked him if he's involved in anything else, and he assured me that he's not."
Moore, a 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard, is averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 assists for the 11-3 Huskies. He has started every game for UConn despite suffering a deviated septum in a season-opening loss to Indiana and a sprained ankle this week.
On Wednesday night, athletic director Lew Perkins spoke with reporters during an impromptu news conference to acknowledge the possible violation. Perkins, the athletic director and basketball coach at USC-Aiken from 1969-79, plans to submit a report to the NCAA today detailing the results of an internal investigation.
"The university, along with the Big East Conference, will work with the NCAA to determine when the student-athlete's eligibility to compete will be reinstated," the school said in a Thursday statement.
The university has not revealed how it learned of the possible violations, only saying it became aware of them earlier this week and wanted to deal with the situation as quickly as possible.
Moore's mother said she and her husband, Buck Moore, were surprised to see their son visit in October 1995. They questioned Ricky about the source of the ticket but assumed it was a gift from his former boss, Bob Cook, owner of American Yard Products in Augusta.
"We're not rich people," Dorothy Moore said. "When Ricky was working for Mr. Cook, Mr. Cook would help him out from time to time. I just assumed this ticket came from Mr. Cook, too. .°.°. I guess it was our fault, not really bearing down on Ricky."
Dorothy Moore is a registered nurse. Buck Moore, a PGA Tour caddy who works with golfer Kelly Gibson, is in Indian Wells, Calif., at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Mrs. Moore said the important thing now is for her son not to let the investigation affect his attitude or his schoolwork.
"He's been so plagued with injuries since he's been at Connecticut," she said. "Ricky's spirits have been down and he was just getting back up. I think he's handling this investigation pretty good. .°.°.
"I told him straight out: You knew what you did was wrong. Now take your lumps, hold your head up and keep hitting those books.'°"
The Associated Press contributed to this story.