Tennessee Athletic Hostess Program Under NCAA Investigation

tennessee-logoOne of the oddities of collegiate recruiting that has long fascinated me is the use of attractive women as bait.  Inside Higher Ed calls my attention to a NYT report that the practice is drawing scrutiny from the NCAA.

The N.C.A.A. is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the University of Tennessee’s football recruiting practices, according to interviews with several prospects, their family members and high school administrators. A significant part of the investigation is focused on the use of recruiting hostesses who have become folk heroes on Tennessee Internet message boards for their ability to help lure top recruits.


Interviews with multiple recruits and their family members revealed that the N.C.A.A. has strong interest in Tennessee’s use of recruiting hostesses, students who are part of a formal group at the university that hosts all manner of prospective students at campus visits, including athletes. It is not clear whether the university sent the hostesses to visit the football players.

In one case, hostesses traveled nearly 200 miles to attend a high school game in South Carolina in which at least three Tennessee recruits were playing. Marcus Lattimore, a running back who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee but said he would not enroll there, said multiple Tennessee hostesses attended a game at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., in September. He said they brought signs, including one that read, “Come to Tennessee.” “I haven’t seen no other schools do that,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

The hostesses are considered representatives of the university, which would mean they could not recruit players off campus. Therefore, the visits may be considered violations of N.C.A.A. recruiting rules.


Some recruits say their influence is significant. “You don’t want to go to a college where they ain’t pretty,” Lattimore said.

Frankly, the fact that these young women are “representatives of the university” and that their travel might amount to a secondary rules violation strikes me as a side issue.   That universities are using attractive co-eds as institutionalized recruiting tools, with quid pro quo either real or implied, is the real scandal.  And it’s been going on for years.

FILED UNDER: Education, Gender Issues, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LaurenceB says:

    “Quid pro quo” strikes me as perhaps the most polite description I have yet heard for that particular arrangement between a man and a woman. You are indeed a southern gentleman Dr. Joyner.

  2. Jeff Quinton says:

    There was a crackdown on hostesses for recruiting on athlete visits to campuses in the late 80s. Resulted in several schools dropping the organization they had for it at the time. Some of them brought them back under new names (Clemson went from Bengal Babes to Tiger PAWs [an acronym of some sort.])

    There are all sorts of rules for using recruiting hostesses now and even academic requirements for the hostesses some places.

    Giving a recruit an extra dessert on a recruiting trip at dinner is included in the list of secondary violations, though. So that list can get rather nitpicky at times.

  3. Drew says:

    In other venues they call it prostitution.

  4. CGHill says:

    So they’re trying to get the attention of college-bound boys with … girls?

    My goodness. What will they think of next?