The fourth installment of Sports Illustrated’s investigative report on wrongdoing in the Oklahoma State football program had the potential to be the most salacious but wound up having the least relevance to LSU.
The magazine previewed Friday’s fourth installment under the headline “The Sex” as it reported the previous three days on allegations of cash payments, academic fraud and lax drug policy in the Cowboys program in the past decade, including Tigers coach Les Miles’ tenure as OSU coach (2001-04).
The latest installment reviewed expansion of the Orange Pride program, which provided female students as hostesses for football recruits, during Miles’ tenure and how it coincided with the team’s rise to national prominence.
The report alleged 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.
Moreover, in reaction to a change in NCAA bylaws in 2004, LSU transferred its hosting program from the athletic department to the university-wide LSU Ambassadors a year before Miles was hired away from Oklahoma State.
According to the report, membership in Orange Pride more than tripled during Miles’ tenure and a greater emphasis was placed on attracting prettier and more outgoing women. The report also said Miles would interview prospective members of the group and helped choose which made the cut.
Additionally, the report said, more than a dozen Cowboys who played from 2001 to ’11 told SI that a few Orange Pride members had sex 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.
SI reported that Miles explained his role in the program via an email to the magazine: “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.”
Artrell Woods, a Cowboys receiver from 2006 to ’08 said, he did not have sex with an Orange Pride member on his recruiting visit but was aware of others who did, according to the report.
“There’s no other way a female can convince you to come play football at a school besides (sex),” Woods said in the article. “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.”
SI 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, and one former staffer said he and at least one colleague were aware that certain Orange Pride members were having sex with visiting prospects.
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.”
LSU used to have a hostess group called Tiger Pride, which 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 male and female LSU Ambassadors 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.
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 final installment of the SI series will chronicle the fallout for several players whose Cowboys careers and futures didn’t pan out as they had hoped. It’s scheduled to be posted on the magazine’s website Tuesday morning.
Miles has denied any wrongdoing during his Oklahoma State tenure on multiple occasions in the past week and said Wednesday that he would “have my say” later.