Wed Dec 09 08:59am EST
If nothing else, Lane Kiffin's first year as Tennessee's head coach has been a revelatory tour through some of the more obscure nooks and crannies of the recruiting rulebook. Yes, you must take a test before contacting recruits. It's fine to declare ownership of a major pipeline, but you may also be effectively banned from another. Yes, in fact, opposing coaches may contact recruits during their visits to rival schools. No, you cannot have recruits run through fake smoke or answer questions in a staged press conference. Yes, you and your staff may rip off your shirts in the presence of recruits. You may not tweet about specific players, mention them by name on the radio or allow them to appear on camera in your presence. As a coach, however, you may be name-checked by Lil Wayne. If you lure a particularly high profile recruit from a previous commitment, you can expect his eligibility to come into question under intense scrutiny of his handler.
This morning, citing an NCAA investigation "unusual in its scope and timing" and covering "a wide swath" of Tennessee recruits in at least three states, the New York Times adds possibly the weirdest lesson yet to the canon: Thou shalt not deploy overly enthusiastic recruiting hostesses:
Interviews with multiple recruits and their family members revealed that the N.C.A.A. has strong interest in Tennessee’s use of recruiting hostesses, students who are part of a formal group at the university that hosts all manner of prospective students at campus visits, including athletes. It is not clear whether the university sent the hostesses to visit the football players.
In one case, hostesses traveled nearly 200 miles to attend a high school game in South Carolina in which at least three Tennessee recruits were playing.
Marcus Lattimore, a running back who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee but said he would not enroll there, said multiple Tennessee hostesses attended a game at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., in September. He said they brought signs, including one that read, "Come to Tennessee."
The girls have also been active in social networking with players; one showed up on Facebook with the prize of this year's class, Bryce Brown. Lattimore said a pair of teammates' verbal commitments to the Vols had "a lot" to do with the attention of the hostesses, who he described to the Times as "real pretty, real nice and just real cool" -- after all, "You don't want to go to a college where they ain't pretty." Spoken like a true American, Marcus.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton confirmed the NCAA's inquiry, which includes interviews with at least three UT commitments. But it's not clear at all that anything will come of it, or even that Kiffin or anyone else at the top of the chain is involved in dispatching the hostesses: It seems entirely plausible that the general fervor around building the world's greatest recruiting machine just trickled down to a bunch of girls who bleed that very specific shade of orange. Passion first, compliance later: In this recruiting culture, at least they've got their priorities in order.