The New York Times has a verrrrry interesting story about an NCAA investigation at Tennessee, concerning recruiting "hostesses"—i.e., hot Tennessee co-eds who get quite friendly with talented high school football players. (Updates below)
Let's just get right to it, shall we?
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.
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."
That's about about as far as the Times article is willing to go, but clearly there is more going on than just some kids holding signs. The NCAA is interviewing current high school seniors about their interactions with the hostesses—it's quite unusual for them to instigate an inquiry on players who haven't committed to a school yet—as the girls would be considered representatives of the university and subject to all recruiting rules.
And what about those message board folk heroes? Well, there was at least one thread on VolNation.com earlier this year, paying tribute to these ladies of football mercy. It is now mysteriously missing, but a tipster was able to snag a few snippets from it. The thread was titled "Meet Your Vol Hostesses" and began with pictures, names and Facebook links for a squadron of Volunteer ladies, along with some veiled thoughts about what these girls are willing to do for their school. The first message on the thread, begins:
These are the unsung heros of recruiting. Just ask Bryce Brown.
Most of the Facebook links are dead (or private pages) as well, but at least one of these girls is not shy about her role in the recruiting process. One is Lacey Pearl Earps, whose name is well known on SEC message boards. (That's her above, with current UT freshman Bryce Brown.) According to her MySpace page, she is a student at University of Tennessee and she "recruits champions." There are numerous photos of her hugging what appear to be Tennessee football players and/or recruits. (The pictures are small, but clearly taken on a football field.)
And the most recent comment left by a friend, is from a young man named Chaz Green, saying that he "had a great visit." Chaz is a 17-year-old offensive tackle from Tampa, Florida, who is listed on Rivals.com with his top choices being Florida and ... you guessed it, Tennessee. He made his on-campus visit in October.
The Volunteers are certainly not the only school to employ these types of "hostesses" or "hospitality" girls, but the school has drawn increased scrutiny from authorities since Lane Kiffin took over the program. They've committed at least six secondary violations in less than a year and Kiffin's habit of boasting about recruits in public—and attacking the recruits of other schools—has made a lot of folks unhappy. This investigation will only shine more light on the practice, not only at UT, but across the country.
Because as Mr. Lattimore puts it, "You don't want to go to a college where they ain't pretty." Ain't that the truth?
N.C.A.A. Is Said to Inquire Widely of Tennessee's Recruiting [NY Times]
Tennessee under NCAA investigation over use of recruiting hostesses [Vol Nation]
[Top photo via Clay Travis]
UPDATE: Miss Earps and the other hostesses are actually in the Tennessee Football Media Guide. She's a captain in Orange Pride, "a group of students whose primary duty is to promote the University and its strong academic programs, rich traditions, and winning athletics program to campus visitors and potential student-athletes." (Click to enlarge the photo.)
UPDATE 2: Clay Travis, who actually knows things like "rules," breaks down what this actually means for Tennessee, specifically what it would take for any of this to be an actual recruiting violation (and how they were likely ratted out by another school.) [FanHouse]