Coach Lane Kiffin from the University of Tennessee is under investigation for several scandals, one of which involves a couple of pretty girls traveling across state lines to recruit at a South Carolina high school.
Last week, Pete Themel, reporting for the New York Times, wrote about several possible issues with the University of Tennessee's recruiting techniques. Like many other colleges, the University of Tennessee has a hostess group that was recently renamed "Orange Pride." Usually, members of Orange Pride remain on the campus, but Themel reported that two students, Lacey Earps and Dahra Johnson, had been spotted at a high school football game, holding up signs of encouragement for two of the players. The N.C.A.A. has launched an investigation to determine whether this was an illegal off-campus recruiting trip by non-sanctioned Tennessee personnel or simply a friendly visit from orange-clad future classmates.
While the vast majority of the stories about the University of Tennessee's questionable recruiting techniques skirt around the real issue, George Vecsey hits the nail right on the head. In a piece published today by the New York Times, Vecsey says: "College football never fails me with its grubbiness." It's not entirely clear yet whether these women traveled the 178-miles to the high school game with the express purpose of recruiting the players, yet it seems likely (especially given the fact that they held up a sign reading "Miller and Willis have our hearts"). They also had direct contact with the players, as a photo published on the Sports Illustrated website proves. Unless they already knew the players, it's clear that Earps and Johnson were there for one reason: to convince high school students to attend their college not only for the sports, but also for the girls. Or, as Vecsey puts it:
It sounds like a major state university encouraging two undergraduates to send an unmistakable message: "These are the kind of honeys we have in Knoxville." Athletes want to know this before they matriculate. (What, you thought Tiger Woods was the only athlete who likes variety?)
Over at our sister site, Dashiell Bennett took the argument one step further. Bennett mentions several comments from a message board that provide "veiled thoughts about what these girls are willing to do for their school." The first message on the thread reads:
These are the unsung heros of recruiting. Just ask Bryce Brown.
And the message was probably not lost on the South Carolina students. Vecsey writes:
The N.C.A.A. could start its investigation with the comments in The New York Times from Keith Easterwood, a basketball coach who accompanied his son on a football recruiting trip to Knoxville. He said recruits were reduced to "blubbering idiots" by Orange Pride hostesses brushing into them.
"My observation is that this is a very organized operation," Easterwood said. "These girls have obviously been groomed. There's a lot of eye contact and touching."
Although the Orange Pride group includes both male and female members, it's the women who are being used (illegally) for recruiting. They're being paraded around in order to send a message to high schoolers: Join us, and you can have all this. But coach Kiffin doesn't seem too concerned about the investigation. On Saturday, he told press that he considers the investigation "a compliment." Somehow, we don't think that's how the N.C.A.A. intended it.
Hostesses As Recruiters? How Far Is Too Far [New York Times]
Tennessee's "Hostess" Program Catches Recruits' (And NCAA's) Eyes [Deadspin]
Photo Proves Tennessee Vols Recruits Had Contact With Hostesses [Sports Illustrated]
Kiffin Says Recruitment Investigation A Compliment [AP]
University Of Tennessee Pledges Cooperation With NCAA In Inquiry [New York Times]