It’s easy to gain the attention of a teenage boy; all that’s necessary is an attractive girl. That’s why many FBS teams have organized groups of hostesses, mostly good-looking undergraduate females, whose jobs are to convince recruits that their school is the place to be. But after recent scandals, is it time for this tradition to be abandoned?
Every big-time college football program has had a bevy of hostesses, always cleverly named, who were the best-looking tour guides you will ever come across.
There were the “Texas Angels,” Miami’s “Hurricane Honeys,” the “Bengal Babes” of Clemson, NC State’s “Stately Ladies,” the “Black-Eyed Susans” at Maryland and Auburn’s “Tigerettes,” just to name a few.
And while many of the names are now different and all include guys as well, the results are the same.
They smile, are extra personable and make it so committing to their schools seem irresistible. Coaches can’t spend enough quality time with all the recruits to give them an idea what it would be like at the school. But the hostesses can show them around and answer their more in-depth questions.
But all kidding aside, the recruits’ new friends walk them around campus and sit with them at games during the day and give them the true college experience at night, when parents no longer are at the recruits’ sides.
What red-blooded American male wouldn’t come away feeling good about a place where all the pretty girls look his way?
As former prep recruit Willie Williams put it while visiting Auburn in 2004 and being invited to a party by his hostesses: “The girls at the party were much better than the farmer girls we’d see all day around campus. I was kind of worried all Auburn had to offer was those farmer girls that talked funny. But the girls at the party weren’t farmer girls at all. I thought they must have bused them in from Miami.”
But it’s not always that innocent.
In 2004, an investigation into Colorado’s recruiting practices alleged that members of the Buffaloes’ team had been convincing recruits to come to Boulder by providing alcohol and strippers to entertain them during campus visits.
Former football recruiting assistant Nathan Maxcey allegedly also made a call to an escort service, but Maxcey alleged that there was no connection to the school or recruits.
But a closer look at the Colorado scandal revealed a history of unsavory behavior that not even stricter guidelines could remedy.
In 1997, a high school student claimed that two Colorado recruits sexually assaulted her at a party. No charges were filed. In 2001, two women said they were raped at an off-campus party at which Colorado football players and recruits were in attendance.
No rape charges were filed in the latter case either, but the damage to Colorado’s reputation had been done. And it didn’t end there.
A little more than a year later, prosecutors filed felony charges against four football players for providing alcohol to minors – the recruits. Those four players had their scholarships revoked.
Said Kathy Redmond of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes in 2003 to SI.com: “The mindset of these recruits is one of entitlement, yet they’re expected to know the difference between women who want to be with them and those who don’t.”
The NCAA wouldn’t stand for any of it. In the wake of those findings, it ruled that recruiters had to be student hosts who were either athletes or campus tour guides – and they couldn’t be all females.
NCAA officials then went in front of a House subcommittee in 2004 to assure the government that new recruiting practices would be implemented and stringently followed.
Many of the schools changed the name of the hosting groups. For example, the “Texas Angles” were changed to the “Texas Angels & Gabriels,” Miami’s “Hurricane Honeys” because the “Hurricane Connection” and the Clemson “Bengal Babes” became the “Clemson PAWS.”
It sounded good on paper, but that doesn’t mean that pretty girls have stopped batting their eyes at star athletes.
In fact, if that sounds like a practice as old as college football itself, you’re close. Reports claim that Bear Bryant was the first to introduce the idea in the 1960s, when the since-disbanded “‘Bama Belles” were instituted.
The schools also maneuvered to keep Bryant’s idea alive without having to deal with all of the consequences. While ‘Bama’s Belles were linked directly to the athletic department, nowadays recruiters are part of the school’s admissions office.
But even after the NCAA cracked down on the relationships and schools took measures to distances themselves, a probe of Tennessee’s football program in 2009 revealed that the shady practices haven’t gone away.
The New York Times reported in an investigative piece that hostesses traveled nearly 200 miles to attend a high school games in South Carolina, where top recruit Marcus Lattimore was playing for James F. Byrnes High School.
Citing Lattimore – who now plays for South Carolina – the Times reported that the female hostesses brought signs that read, “Come to Tennessee.”
“I haven’t seen no other schools do that,” he told the Times. “It’s crazy.”
To say the least.
And since the girls were considered representatives of the university, they were not allowed to recruit players off campus. The scrutiny intensified when two of Lattimore’s teammates, Brandon Willis and Corey Miller, committed to UT.
It’s unclear exactly what role the school had in the behavior of these young women or if they had direct effects on the decisions of Willis and Miller.
But there’s a reason that most schools now reportedly make the recruiters sign behavioral contracts. Others demand that the recruiters cease to contact recruits after they leave campus.
But the Times suggested – regardless of what happened in the South Carolina instance – that Tennessee hostesses seem to be the most aggressive. Many had conversed with recruits over MySpace and Facebook in the past. A picture of former Tennessee blue-chip running back Bryce Brown (pictured below) – who since has transferred – and a hostess emerged online.
Not surprisingly, Tennessee’s “Orange Pride” is now defunct.
But the practice of using attractive girls to lure recruits to football powerhouses is alive and well, and still raising questions about their validity.
According to a SportsbyBrooks report last month, 21 of Auburn’s Tigerettes were paid a combined $78,044.26 between Oct. 2, 2009, and May 31, 2011. That included one hostess that received over $12,000 herself during that time period. Five male hosts were paid $6,880.19 during that period. [Update: The hostesses were not paid for being Tigerettes, but rather other work in the athletic department.]
While it certainly isn’t a scandal, it does raise questions about what exactly they were getting paid for; not the attention a program needs after questions all of last season about how they landed Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
With many schools such as Tennessee doing away with hostesses altogether, it has once again raised the question about whether the Tigerettes and others should even exist. Critics say it’s outdated at best and borderline prostitution at worst, while supporters claim a couple bad examples distort reality and the knee-jerk criticism is just another sign of a politically-correct world gone mad.
But with the NCAA examining major changes such as covering the full cost of attendance in an athletic scholarship, one must wonder if they should do away with hostesses altogether to avoid another black eye on college sports that seems inevitable.