The fourth installment of the SI series on Oklahoma State is out, this time on members of the hostess program "Orange Pride" having sex with recruits.
To the extent that this part has something damning in its main focus, it's this:
None of the more than 30 former players or the 14 former Orange Pride members who spoke to SI about the group had direct knowledge of a coach or athletic department staff member instructing a hostess to have sex with a recruit. But a former Orange Pride adviser and two former members of the football staff say that coaches sometimes decided which hostesses to pair with which recruits. Also, one former football staff member says that he and at least one other colleague were aware that certain Orange Pride members were having sex with visiting prospects. What's more, Oklahoma State football personnel played a central role in vetting Orange Pride candidates, with Les Miles, who coached the team from 2001 to '04, and current coach Mike Gundy interviewing some applicants -- a practice that does not occur at the three other Big 12 schools that confirmed to SI they had hostess programs.
Asked about his involvement in Orange Pride, Miles responded by 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, 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."
Members of the staff—notably, not coaches—knew it was going on. Also, the coaches did help vet candidates for the program. That's basically it. Miles's denial is not actually a damning detail, but I figured I'd include it for those of you who won't click through to the article.
The reaction to this part since it was first made known days ago, which has continued since it was published, has largely been along the lines of, "Oh my, college students like to have sex. Stop the presses, indeed. Whatever." To a large extent, that's appropriate. People who are in the 17-21 age range are well known to enjoy doing that. Many of the players quoted say that they themselves didn't sleep with hostesses but knew guys who did. It's probably worth noting that males of that age have been known to lie about sexual encounters from time to time to try to impress their friends.
In any event, this segment of the report actually does have a valid concern, though it's largely buried and undersold. A grand total of three paragraphs address it, all within the last five paragraphs of the piece.
Having all-female hostess programs, rather than mixed-gender ambassador programs, sends a message to recruits and players alike. They implicitly, and perhaps explicitly depending on how the selection process goes, are used to show off some of the attractive women on campus to prospects. Even if they don't literally say it, they're sending a message of, "hey, you should come here because we have pretty girls who like to hang around with football players".
In other words, they partially exist to objectify women. Of all the tasks a hostess does, from practical things like showing recruits around campus to intangibles like being personable, none of them require the person to be female. None of them, that is, except sending the message that the school has attractive women who like being around football players.
Is that something we really want tax-funded, public institutions doing? Do we want them running programs that objectify women to any degree? The fact that these hostess programs exist and what it is they stand for is the real scandal here, not that hostesses and recruits were having sex away from the program without the direction of the football staff.
There is some real reporting to be done on this very real issue. You won't find it in this SI article, though. It's a missed opportunity, and maybe someone else will have pick up the slack for them.