Another Auburn Scam?
Move over, (s)Cam Newton … there’s a new controversy on the Plains.
According to a report published Monday by Sports By Brooks, Auburn University paid tens of thousands of dollars to female hostesses assigned to lure star college athletes to the school. These “Tigerettes” – like the infamous Vol Hostesses – are responsible for tracking top high school prospects on social media websites. They also attend their high school football games and accompany them on official and unofficial campus visits.
“According to employee payroll data available to the public on the official Auburn University website, 21 current Tigerettes were paid $78,044.26 between Oct. 2, 2009, and May 31, 2011,” the Sports By Brooks report notes. “Five male ‘Tiger’ hosts were paid $6,880.19 during the same period.”
(To view the report in its entirety, click here).
The “Tigerettes” were formed in the 1970s under former Auburn head coach Doug Barfield. The program underwent a major expansion under legendary head coach and athletics director Pat Dye – who was forced from his job in 1992 after a scandal involving illegal payments to a player.
Approximately 400-500 women – and a handful of men – go through the screening process each year, according to the Auburn Plainsman.
“I love it so much, so I’ll be up here until three o’clock in the morning if I need to get something right. I’ll put in extra time,” one of the paid hostesses told The Plainsman. “Pretty much the only time we were at home this weekend was to put our pajamas on and go to bed.”
Most major programs have similar hostess groups, although the NCAA is paying closer attention to their activities in light of the scandal surrounding the Tennessee hostesses.
According to the NCAA, former UT head coach Lane Kiffin “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program” at Tennessee and that he “failed to monitor” his coaching staff’s interaction with the hostess program.
One of Kiffin’s assistants – former South Carolina quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator David Reaves – is accused of making “improper contact with recruits as well as providing written and oral instruction to the Vol hostesses about which top recruits to contact, how to contact them, and asked for updates on those conversations, which occurred either via Facebook, text message or phone call.”
“The hostesses were also urged to inquire as to how official visits to other schools went and to make sure that recruits remained committed to the Vols,” the NCAA alleges.
“Failure to monitor” is classified by the NCAA as a major violation – and wide latitude is available to NCAA officials regarding the punishment that can be meted out.
Auburn’s 2010 national championship season has already been clouded by allegations that Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick Cam Newton was part of a pay-to-play scheme engineered by his father, Cecil Newton.