Head football coach Sonny Lubick hasn’t built CSU into a perennial football power by himself. Bringing in top recruits year after year takes more than the combined efforts of Lubick and his dedicated staff. And that’s where Sonny’s Angels come in.
They are the secret weapon of the Rams’ recruiting juggernaut; a group of 25 women from the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority who volunteer to assist the football program in getting the best of the best from the high school ranks.
And with the defensive player of the year from three different states coming to Fort Collins in next year’s recruiting class, it appears the Angels, along with the Rams’ coaching staff, are getting it done.
“Most of the recruits are very shy and intimidated by the whole situation, but they opened up to us,” said sophomore Marni Dowdell. “It was just a lot of small talk and answering questions. It’s an opportunity to represent CSU.”
On the average recruiting visit for a CSU home game, Dowdell and other Gamma Phi Beta sorority members travel to Denver International Airport with one of the CSU coaches to pick up out-of-state recruits. The rest of the day consists of a bus tour of campus and Old Town, and then a dinner before the game during which the women answer questions and basically sell Fort Collins and the CSU football program to the recruits.
“On recruiting weekends, we get everywhere from 20 to even 30 recruits all at once, and when you have only nine full-time coaches, that’s a lot of people to try to entertain,” said Reza Zadeh, a graduate assistant of the football team who runs the Sonny’s Angels program. “We have a campus tour on a bus and then a tour of Old Town, and the girls are on the bus as well. So there’s about 20 girls on the bus with about 20 guys. And it’s not like they’re matching up or anything, that’s just who we have.”
Zadeh has run the program during its first two recruiting seasons and is a 2001 CSU graduate and former football player. He is now the young adult pastor at the Timberline Church. He emphasized that there was no selection process for choosing the women.
“It’s strictly volunteer and that’s the amazing thing,” Zadeh said. “People say, ‘You only pick the pretty girls,’ and we don’t. We take whoever wants to help us.”
The Sonny’s Angels program is not unique to CSU. Most major college football programs have an equivalent recruiting practice. At North Carolina State they are called the “Stately Ladies.” At the University of Georgia they are called the “Georgia Girls.” And at the Alabama, the “Bama Belles” have 95 “hostesses” in the program.
But some schools’ programs have become marred by sex scandals involving hostesses and recruits. Incidents during recruiting visits at the University of Florida, the University of Alabama and, most recently, the University of Colorado, have brought some criticism of this kind of recruiting practice. No such incidents have been reported at CSU.
“After the whole CU incident, I said, ‘We don’t want get like that.’ CSU has a reputation for being a clean program,” Zadeh said. “We don’t want them going to parties with the recruits and stuff like that. The girls were very good about that. Honestly, how many college girls are interested in hooking up with a junior or senior in high school?”
CSU freshman defensive back Ben Stratton was one of last year’s recruits who was accompanied by Sonny’s Angels during his high school visit to Fort Collins. Stratton said that he knew about the abuses at other schools, but hadn’t seen anything like that at CSU.
“There are boundaries put up, there’s nothing like that,” Stratton said. “Basically they just played pool with us and hung out. Having different people around gave us a different view and a different perspective of campus.”
Dowdell had a similar response when asked if there was ever any kind of sexual incident between a hostess and a recruit.
“At other universities, that may happen,” she said. “But I would be very surprised if anything like that happened here. The women who do this wouldn’t put themselves in a bad situation.”
Zadeh said he requires each woman to sign a code of conduct before entering the program that suggests they not attend parties where recruits will be and to end all contact with the recruits after the final dinner function on recruiting visits.
“I say, ‘Hey, I can’t stop you guys from doing anything, but this can turn real ugly,'” Zadeh said. “All it takes is one person accusing somebody of something and everything that coach Lubick has built in the last 10 years can come crashing down. This situation has been avoided because of their responsibility.”