On Wednesday, OGGOA reported that the NCAA is in the middle of 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 report surrounded the NCAA’s interviewing of recruits, their families, head coaches and school administrators about some methods the Volunteers utilized while recruiting – most prominently the use of “recruiting hostesses” named the Orange Pride.
The Times published a follow-up report Friday evening with additional accusations and more information on some of the questionable recruiting practices being utilized by the school. These range from the improper use of a recruiting intern to sexual advances made by members of the Orange Pride to recruits during official visits.
The Southeastern Conference is investigating the role that Volunteers recruiting intern Steve Rubio played during a trip to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Rubio, a graduate of the school, visited St. Thomas Aquinas with head coach Lane Kiffin and may have done recruiting work or contacted players during the trip. He is not allowed, per NCAA rules, to recruit off of the Tennessee campus.
Furthering the allegations initially brought to light on Wednesday, The Times picked up Sports Illustrated‘s picture of two hostesses traveling over 200 miles to a South Carolina high school football game with a sign reading “Miller and Willis Have Our Hearts” The trip was conducted and the sign was created in order to woo recruits Brandon Willis and Corey Miller of James F. Byrnes High School. The presence of these women alone is expected to be enough to draw a violation; however, the extent of the coaches’ knowledge and direction about their practices will determine the punishment’s severity.
That is not all.
Also on Friday, Keith Easterwood, a veteran summer basketball coach, said that on a visit last year with his son, a football recruit, he had to ask a hostess to stop brushing her breasts against both him and his son. He recalled saying, “Young lady, if you don’t stop doing that, we’ve got a problem.”
Eastwood said that Tennessee’s recuriting hostess program is the most “orchestrated and aggressive” he has seen in almost three decades as a coach. Taking a group of his players to a Volunteers game this season, he said the “presence of the hostesses had his players ‘literally reduced to blubbering idiots.’” “I’ve been up there five times, four for football and one basketball visit,” Easterwood told The Times. “My observation is that this is a very organized operation. These girls have obviously been groomed. There’s a lot of eye contact and touching.”