SI: Miles expanded hostess program at OSU

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU coach Les Miles answers questions at a news conference.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU coach Les Miles answers questions at a news conference.

The fourth installment in Sports Illustrated’s investigative report into alleged long-term wrongdoing in the Oklahoma State football program, including LSU coach Les Miles’ tenure (2001-2004), said the Cowboys’ Orange Pride program, which provided female students as hostesses to recruits, expanded into an integral part of recruiting on Miles’ watch.

The report alleges that a small number of the hostesses had sex with football recruits, but none of the more than 30 former players or the 14 former Orange Pride members with whom SI’s reporters spoke about the group had direct knowledge of a coach or athletic department staff member instructing a hostess to have sex with a recruit.

According to the report, which was posted on the magazine’s website late Friday morningmembership in Orange Pride more than tripled during Miles’ tenure and a greater emphasis was placed on attracting prettier and more outgoing women. Additionally, the report said, more than a dozen Cowboys who played from 2001 to ‘11 told SI that a few Orange Pride members had sexual relations with them or with other prospects during recruiting visits.

According to the former hostesses who spoke to SI, the vast majority did not have sex with recruits. But for those who did, it proved to be an effective inducement.

“There’s no other way a female can convince you to come play football at a school besides (sex),” said Artrell Woods, a Cowboys wide receiver from 2006 to ‘08, who added that he did not have sex with an Orange Pride member on his recruiting visit but was aware of others who did. “The idea was to get (recruits) to think that if they came (to Oklahoma State), it was gonna be like that all the time, with ... girls wanting to have sex with you.”

But, the magazine said, a former Orange Pride adviser and two former members of the football staff said coaches sometimes decided which hostesses to pair with which recruits. One former football staff member said he and at least one colleague were aware that certain Orange Pride members were having sex with visiting prospects.

The report also said Miles would interview prospective members of the group and helped choose which made the cut.

According to SI, Miles explained his role via email: “The volunteers’ role in our program was important and I wanted to stress how seriously we took their duties and responsibilities and the manner in which we expected those students to conduct themselves if they were selected for Orange Pride.”

As for the role of sex in recruiting, SI said Miles wrote, “I am not aware of this ever happening and am quite sure that no staff member was aware of recruits sleeping with this group of students or any other students.”

The NCAA amended its bylaws in 2004 to try and prevent football programs from using hostesses independent of how the university at large uses students for recruiting students in general.

Under NCAA rules, “a student host involved in an official or unofficial visit must be either a current student-athlete or a student designated in a manner consistent with the institution’s policy for providing campus visits or tours to prospective students in general.

“In this regard, individuals are considered hosts if they are involved in traditional hosting duties, such as tasks that require specific interaction with the prospective student-athlete (e.g., entertaining, escorting). Individuals who are involved solely in administrative functions (e.g., stuffing envelopes, collecting unofficial visit money, handling complimentary admissions) are not considered student hosts.”

LSU used to have a hostess group called “Tiger Pride,” that gave football recruits tours of the campus and guided them through their visits to the school. But the university discontinued “Tiger Pride” and turned its duties over to the LSU Ambassadors, who host all prospective students, in the wake of the NCAA amending its bylaws on hosting, sports information director Michael Bonnette said.

Tigers players routinely serve as hosts for recruits when they visit LSU. Miles was hired as Tigers coach a year after Tiger Pride was discontinued and the ambassadors, both male and female, assumed that role.

According to LSU’s website, “The primary purposes of the organization shall be to aid the university in the recruitment of potential students, to assist in the orientation of new students, and to advise all students on the rules, regulations, traditions, and different aspects of university life.”

The website further states, “an LSU Ambassador is an unpaid volunteer who participates in roughly 20 hours of training in order to effectively serve LSU in three major capacities: Recruitment of potential students; Orientation of new students; Advising of new and current students.”

The SI series previously alleged misconduct in the OSU program during Miles’ tenure and that of current head coach Mike Gundy, a former Miles assistant who was promoted when Miles came to LSU. The final installment will chronicle the fallout for several players whose Cowboys career and future didn’t pan out as they had hoped. It’s scheduled to be posted on the magazine’s website next Tuesday morning.

SI has touted the final installment thusly:

“One of the selling points of college football is that it changes lives, that young men have their character and fortunes enhanced by taking part in the sport, even if they remain on campus for only a short time. But in the past decade, player after player has been driven out of Stillwater, returning to worlds they had hoped to escape. Some have been incarcerated, others live on the streets, many have battled drug abuse, and a few have attempted suicide.”

Miles has denied any wrongdoing during his Oklahoma State tenure on multiple occasions in the last week and said Wednesday that he would “have my say” later.

The eighth-ranked Tigers play Kent State on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

See the Sports Illustrated story here.