Ga. Hostess Program Gets Some Flak
Feb. 02, 1999
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) _ They are known as the Georgia Girls, a group of some 70 ``vivacious'' female students who spend their winter weekends taking high school football recruits to dinner.
The program has been around at least 20 years, and is an important part of attracting some of the country's best players to the University of Georgia.
Some say the program is nothing more than a university-sponsored escort service.
``Just the fact that these hospitality teams are all female and the football players are all male sets up the expectation that what is being given out is sex appeal,'' said Victoria Davion, who teaches a feminist philosophy class. ``They're selling sex appeal as an enticement to come.''
Not so, says Dominique Holloman, a sophomore Georgia Girl.
``We're like hostesses,'' she said. ``You could think of it as a tour guide.''
Last season, Tennessee fans taunted Georgia Girls at a game, insinuating that they used sex to sign players.
The Bulldogs are the pre-eminent team in this football-crazy state, drawing 90,000 fans to every home game.
Other schools with powerhouse football programs, mostly in the South, have similar organizations _ the Bama Belles (Alabama), Vol Hostesses (Tennessee), Gator Guides (Florida), Rebel Recruiters (Mississippi) and Tiger PAWS (Clemson). The NCAA has no objection.
The Georgia Girls look for young women who are ``vivacious, outgoing and informative,'' said Audra Towson, the 22-year-old president of the group.
Recruits notice their looks. Bulldog linebacker Adrian Hollingshed said recruits often talk about which school has the prettiest escorts. But he said the players don't expect relationships with the women.
The Georgia Girls acknowledge they flirt with some recruits but say it never goes beyond that.
Towson said many of the women are in their 20s and wouldn't consider dating teen-agers. Although some Georgia Girls date current Bulldog players, Towson said she has never heard of any who had a physical relationship with a recruit.
Not that there are rules against it. Revealing clothes are frowned upon, but the only thing strictly forbidden is wearing anything other than the school colors, red and black.
Many universities say they would not approve of an all-female group because it would give the impression that the school endorsed relationships between the group members and recruits.
``We don't have that, and we won't,'' said Bob Chamiel, Notre Dame's coordinator of football operations. ``I think everybody has their own way of recruiting.''
The Georgia Girls' work really begins in January, when recruits visit the campus.
On Fridays, the women put on their best red-and-black outfits for dinner with the players. Each woman takes basic football lessons and studies up on her recruit _ where he's from, his parents' names and his position _ to keep the conversation flowing smoothly.
They accompany recruits, players and coaches to dinner again on Saturday nights, sometimes followed by a tour of Athens' nightlife. All of it is paid by the school's football program, which is funded by donations, game tickets and television revenue.
Because the players are underage, bars are rarely on the itinerary. The usual destinations are basketball games or bowling alleys.
During visits in the fall, the women sit with recruits at games, show them around campus and answer questions about student life.
``We play a part in making them feel more comfortable at the school,'' says Haley Cagle, a senior and a program vice president. ``Sometimes they'll confide stuff in us that they don't tell the coaches.''
The Georgia Girls will see the results of their work on Wednesday, college football's signing day, when the recruits' decisions on which school they will play for are announced.
``I feel like more than just a person in the stands,'' Holloman said. ``I'm actually part of something, not just an onlooker. It's kind of like being the ultimate fan.''