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By Jordan Dominick || College football has become one of the largest, most recognizable and most profitable “businesses” in America. That’s why it’s not surprising that the stacks of cash being pumped into major Division I-A programs – and the demands on winning – are constantly being raised.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of major college athletics – the source of its dominance or decline – meaning that schools are constantly trying to get a “leg up” on their competition (ethical or not) when it comes to landing top high school talent.

One method that major programs routinely employ to accomplish this objective are the use of recruiting hostesses. These lovely ladies are not only able to catch recruits’ eyes – but unlike college coaches they are allowed to have extensive interpersonal contact with recruits.

In the past few years, the University of Tennessee and Auburn University have had their hostess programs — Orange Pride and Auburn’s “Tigerettes,” respectively — spotlighted by the media for questionable tactics. In Tennessee’s case, hostess-related violations could lead to major NCAA sanctions.

In a recent conversation with a former college hostess, FITS was able to get an unfiltered inside look at one of these programs. Our hostess – who was granted anonymity to speak freely – offered several candid details about how these programs really work.

“We help the university by acting as ambassadors,” she says. “It is more than just about football as you have to go to orientations and (you) have other responsibilities. However if I missed some of that stuff there wouldn’t have been a problem – but if I missed recruiting, (that) would have been an issue.”

And seeing as recruiting is obviously the most important part of a hostesses’ job, these girls go to great lengths to make sure that high school prospects enjoy their time on campus.

“Our instructions were to make them want to come back, to make them love everything about (the school) and to make sure when they left all they thought about was how awesome it was and how they couldn’t wait to get back,” our hostess says.

Auburn Tigerettes

It seems like a fairly simple set of instructions, but things can get complicated when those instructions are put into practice. To make someone have the time of their life, for example, it stands to reason that you have to know all about their likes and dislikes far in advance of their visit – a process that apparently includes matching up recruits with girls that fit their individual preferences.

Right down to hair color, in fact.

“We were very aware of what recruits like before they visit,” our hostess says. “If you know a guy likes blondes you’re not going to give him a brunette regardless of whether she’s going to hook up with him or not so that he’ll be more enamored.”

Wait … “hook-up?”

These girls have sex with athletes?

That’s really the heart of the matter, isn’t it …

Our source stressed that she was never pressured by anyone affiliated with her university to do anything that made her feel uncomfortable. However, she acknowledged that sexual activity between hostesses and recruits was by no means a rare occurrence. In fact, she says that a majority of hostesses engage in the practice at some point.

“I’d venture to guess (that) at least 60 percent eventually hook up with a recruit,” she says. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean (hooking up) while they were recruits. A lot of the time it happened after they were committed and on campus.”

Pay to play, in other words … or at least that’s the perception such romantic liaisons create.

But is it really like that?

Clearly these girls spend a lot of time building connections with prospects, so it’s easy to see how “A” could lead to “B” when a high school recruit becomes a collegiate athlete. Still, it seems incredible naive to think that sexual relations between recruits and hostesses don’t routinely take place – or that those hook-ups don’t impact decisions about where these athletes end up attending school.

“It’s not as bad or sex-filled as everybody probably thinks it is, but things do go on,” our hostess says.

But whether the recruit in question actually has sex with his hostess, it’s clear that if there is something he wants during his campus visit – he’s going to get it.

“When the recruits are in town we make sure they have everything they need,” our hostess says.

When asked for clarification, she replied as candidly as possible that “whatever the recruits want at that time they get; whatever they would like to do is going to happen.”

And if the recruit happens to want a glimpse at college nightlife – as is often the case – hostesses rely on the school’s Greek community to avoid entangling the school in the event any alcohol or drug-related problems arise.

“We tried to introduce them to people in the fraternities and sororities so nothing could be traced back to the university,” our hostess says. “It was sort of about knowing the rules and circumventing them.”

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Clearly the schools don’t want to be involved with underage drinking or drug use – but if it’s just a run-of-the-mill frat boy passing around beers or a joint it’s not that out of the ordinary.

“I think it’s good that the universities allow recruits to interact with students … and can show them things that legally the universities cannot,” our hostess says.  “Like going with them and watching them get drunk – they’re going to do it anyway but at least this way they’ve got people to guide them.”

Fraternities and sororities can also broach topics that hostesses aren’t allowed to discuss.

“You can count on the fraternity guys to talk about how bad Georgia is and how bad we beat them last year,” she says. “Or (to talk) about how bad Georgia sucks, talking smack about the Georgia athletes, how ugly the girls at Georgia look, etc.”

While hostesses have clear instructions to say only positive things about their school (and orders not to poor-mouth rival schools), if a student gets to talking with a major prospect it’s extremely common for the recruit to get an earful about the “deficiencies” of other programs. According to our hostess these stories can be very influential, because such firsthand accounts and personal anecdotes from fellow students come off more as friendly banter than preaching from an authority figure.

Even at the end of each visit, the job of the hostess is not over. In fact, it’s just beginning.  Hostesses have to keep in contact with “their” recruits after the visit – keeping tabs on them and keeping the lines of communication open.

“We kept up with them on their cell phones if they had them,” our hostess explains. “Coaches couldn’t call them, but it’s not against the rules for them to talk to college kids that they liked.”

When asked about Tennessee hostesses attending a Byrnes (S.C.) High School football game in 2009, our source made clear she had never gone to high school games but that the hostesses involved probably would have gotten away with it had they not made signs drawing attention to themselves.

She also took a shot at former Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin, saying that UT hostesses “followed the nature of their head coach in being too brazen.”

As for the Auburn situation, in which members of their Tigerette program were paid more than $80,000 over the last few years, our hostess said she never received direct payments.

“Either I wasn’t very good at getting paid or nobody (was getting paid),” she says.

However, she went on to say that there were multiple perks that she received while in the hostess program – like nice clothing and hairstyle or make-up sessions that could eventually add up over time.

“I guess anything is possible but I highly doubt they’re getting paid that much money in cash unless Auburn is running a prostitution ring,” she says. “But that’s Auburn so I don’t know.”

FITS reached out to both the University of South Carolina and Clemson with inquiries about their respective hostess programs. Neither school responded. Clemson’s program – once called the “Bengal Babes” – is now known as the “Tiger PAWs.” South Carolina’s hostesses are referred to as “Carolina Classics.”

Obviously FITS will continue to dig in an effort to get the inside scoop on those programs.

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