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Time to Get Rid of CFB’s Escort Service

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Sports Illustrated’s “sex” portion of its Oklahoma State investigation last week brought up a topic I’ve long held strong feelings about: Shutting down recruiting hostess programs.

Is there anything more outdated than coeds waiting on hand and foot for college football recruits who visit campuses? It is quite literally an escort service. But instead of rich, fat men paying for the company of young, beautiful women who flirt with them, it’s universities that foot the bill. (Yes, I realize some males are part of these groups but they usually are a very small percentage. And go ahead and call me a hypocrite for having girls content on my site if you want, that doesn’t change the facts about recruiting hostesses.)

The whole thing is so beneath “higher education” and only furthers the sexual entitlement many star athletes have that too often results in sexual assaults on campuses. And the fact that these hostess programs are normally extensions of the admissions office, as if it is a standard part of applying to college, just makes the whole thing even more laughable.

Female college students feeling pressured into doing whatever it takes to lure college football recruits is very fundamentally flawed. It is a “see no evil, hear no evil” practice in which college football athletic departments and coaches turn blind eyes to what it takes to seal a recruit’s commitment.

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When I attended the University of Michigan, it made me cringe seeing girls on “Team Blue” walk around with recruits as if the players were visiting dignitaries. The way the group is opaquely described on Michigan’s athletic website as “a student support group that assists with office work during the week and recruiting game day operations” even sounds like a shady escort service.

If you are unfamiliar with recruiting hostesses, they were reportedly first used in the 1960s by Alabama’s Bear Bryant and spread across the country as other coaches soon realized the best way to a recruit’s heart was through coeds. It’s been a half-century but universities are still objectifying their female students by treating them as bait to reel in recruits.

You can get a great behind-the-scenes look at the current state of recruiting hostesses in the new book “The System” by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict. It gives an eye-opening view that includes a detailed account of how former Tennessee hostess Lacey Earps - creepily nicknamed “The Closer” - recruited running back and No. 1 overall recruit Bryce Brown to Knoxville in 2009 (both at right):

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Earps was twenty-one at the time. Brown was seventeen. That weekend, she took him to a Tennessee men’s basketball game against Vanderbilt. Afterward, they went to see the action movie Taken. Then Earps took him out for ice cream. They were together virtually the entire weekend.

The moment Brown returned home to Wichita, he and Earps started communicating daily during the period leading up to his decision day in mid-March. “I kept in contact with him the whole time,” Earps said. “We Skyped. We texted a lot. We talked on the phone. Talked on Facebook.”

One night Earps even stayed up until 4:00 a.m. Skyping with Brown. “We didn’t have a relationship, but we were getting close,” Earps said. “Actually, as I was recruiting him, maybe I did lead him on a little bit. Bryce wanted me to be single. It was more attractive to the guys if you are single.”

I need a shower.

And that’s a clean version of a recruiting visit. Like escorts, there are too often “additional services” involved with recruiting hostesses that break the rules, such as parties, drugs and sex.

Using recruiting hostesses has come under scrutiny for decades but it is still widespread despite plenty of recent scandalous and embarrassing incidents preceding Oklahoma State’s “Orange Pride” investigation in which some hostesses allegedly had sex with recruits.

In 2001, multiple women claimed they were raped by football players and recruits at a University of Colorado party they were invited to by a hostess. HBO’s “Real Sports” did an entire segment about hostesses in ‘02 that had Oregon defending its group, the aptly named “Teamwork.” A year after that, Arizona State’s student newspaper found that hostesses were having parties and sometimes also sex with recruits.

And, of course, there was the 2009 story of how then-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin sent Earps and another hostess over 200 miles to South Carolina against NCAA rules to recruit two players that were teammates of Marcus Lattimore. The picture below of Earps and the other hostess with the players and flaunting a sign that reads, “Miller & Willis have our hearts” set feminism back 50 years.

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Obviously, college football coaches and athletic directors aren’t going to take the initiative to shut down hostess programs and put themselves at a recruiting disadvantage with competing schools that keep using them.

That’s why I’m calling upon university presidents to work with NCAA president Mark Emmert - who is in drastic need of redeeming his reputation - to bring an end to this practice. That is, if they are sincere about the “honor” and “integrity” both cloak themselves in. It would be so easy for universities and the NCAA to rectify this antiquated recruiting method and avoid many more future scandals by banning coeds as recruiting hostesses. Hosts and hostesses should be real, full-time employees of the football office that are college graduates and only have contact with recruits during business hours.

I know some people will say, “So what? Recruits will still go out and party, drink booze, do drugs and have sex when they visit schools anyway.” Well, at least it wouldn’t be through a practice endorsed and financially backed by colleges across the country.

Because by condoning recruiting hostesses in which their own students act as escorts who sometimes even double as pseudo-prostitutes, university presidents are acting as nothing more than glorified pimps.

Jim Weber is the founder and president of LostLettermen.com. You can follow him at @JimMWeber and @LostLettermen.

 
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