The NCAA is conducting a “wide-ranging investigation” into the recruiting practices of the Tennessee Volunteers football program, according to an article published by The New York Times. The NCAA has interviewed recruits, their families, head coaches and school administrators about some methods the Volunteers have utilized while recruiting – most prominently the use of “recruiting hostesses.”
N.C.A.A. officials have visited four prospects and are scheduled to visit two others this week in an investigation covering at least three states. The inquiry is unusual in its scope and its timing. It is rare that the N.C.A.A. looks at this wide a swath of one university’s recruits before the players have signed with a program in February.
As the Times defines them, recruiting hostesses are “students who are part of a formal group at the university that hosts all manner of prospective students at campus visits.” Apparently, the NCAA has proof that these students were not only used on campus, but some even traveled to South Carolina (and perhaps other locations) to visit five-star running back Marcus Lattimore (Duncan, SC) at one of his games with signs reading: “Come to Tennessee.” Because these students represent the university, their recruiting of players off-campus would be a violation of NCAA rules.
Tennessee is also allegedly using recruiting hostesses to recruit players through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, according to the Times. And on impressionable young athletes, the influence of beautiful women can be quite appealing. “You don’t want to go to a college where they ain’t pretty,” Lattimore said.
More relevant to the Florida Gators, one of the prospects visited by the NCAA was four-star wide receiver recruit Chris Dunkley (Pahokee, FL), considered by some to be a heavy Florida lean. Dunkley told the Times that the NCAA did indeed interview him but did not comment any further.
It is not common for the NCAA to hold this type of investigation before National Signing Day, though the Times speculates that head coach Lane Kiffin’s numerous secondary violations may have triggered a closer look into these allegations. For more on the story, please read the Times article linked above.