Tennessee Athletic Hostess Program Under NCAA Investigation
One 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.