The Tigerettes got their start in the late 1970s during former football head coach Doug Barfield’s tenure.
At first, the program used local high school seniors and Auburn freshman as guides for prospects, but as the program expanded, interviews and training processes were added, and participation in the program was limited to female Auburn students, at which point they became known as the Tigerettes.
The program further expanded once former coach Pat Dye came to Auburn.
“We used more of them because he brought in large numbers of recruits, trying to build the program back up” said Sue Locklar, on-campus recruiting coordinator. “We started going through a very hard selection process.”
Locklar said there are typically between 400–500 applicants who go through the selection process.
Those selected undergo in-depth training seminars about football, the football program and the coaching staff.
They are also trained to give tours of the school similar to those conducted by typical student recruiters.
Toward the end of Dye’s coaching tenure in 1992, Tiger Hosts were added to complement the Tigerettes, making Auburn the first program in the nation to incorporate male students into the recruiting process.
“I talked to him (Dye), and I said, ‘You know, coach, there’s a lot of times that we’re looking for a prospect and we don’t know where he is, and we think he’s in the locker room or dressing room—we’re not sure. Guys could really help us out,’” Locklar said. “And he said, ‘Good idea’.”
Locklar said their philosophy is to assign two Tigerettes and one Tiger Host to a prospect and his parents.
“It never looks like a dating situation or an escort service,” Locklar said. “We try to be very protective of these girls—also, we don’t know these young men coming in here, so we’re very protective.”
In addition to an initial interview process, Tigerettes and Tiger Hosts who want to be involved in the recruitment of student athletes must also go through an interview process with the admissions office to become a part of SOAR, or Students of Auburn Recruitment.
According to a SOAR brochure, they “work with the Office of University Recruitment, serving as a part of the athletic division of Students of Auburn Recruitment recruiting prospective student-athletes alongside Student Recruiters operating in the athletic division.”
Locklar said those students who work with prospects are trained extensively in NCAA rules and regulations, as well as in the intricacies of football.
Jeremy Osborn, senior in biomedical sciences and third-year Tiger Host, said that the benefit of being a Tiger Host extends beyond football.
“This has actually taught me more than all my days in high school football. It teaches you a lot of life lessons,” Osborn said. “It teaches you how to sacrifice.”
Jamie Nolen, senior in public relations and third-year Tigerette, said her friends give her a hard time because she doesn’t come home enough.
“I love it so much, so I’ll be up here until three o’clock in the morning if I need to get something right. I’ll put in extra time,” Nolen said. “Pretty much the only time we were at home this weekend was to put our pajamas on and go to bed.”
According to Nolen, the knowledge and experience she has gained as a Tigerette are worth the extra time and effort.
“It’s fun because I never really pictured me being here, but now I want to work in sports,” Nolen said. “It’s kind of given me direction for the rest of my life, too.”
Scott Fountain, football operations coordinator, said the Tigerettes and Tiger Hosts are valuable because they serve as the face of the program when a recruit comes to Auburn on an official or unofficial visit.
“The thing that makes you appreciate them so much is that they are regular students just like any other students on campus that have to go to class, and everything they do is on a volunteer basis,” Fountain said. “We appreciate their professionalism with recruiting, and the work that Sue Locklar puts in organizing that group is worth so much.”
While the Tigerettes and Tiger Hosts’ responsibilities with recruitment are limited to on-campus visits by prospects, they also represent the athletic department at functions and community events, such as spring flings at local schools.
“The rules now are such that we don’t go off campus that much,” Locklar said. “The Tigerettes and Tiger Hosts can do all the clerical stuff and all the office stuff and the community stuff.
“We help Jay Jacobs host his functions. Even the Auburn University Retirement Association, we help with their function, just to kind of represent the Athletic Department.”
Interviews to be a Tigerette or Tiger Host will be conducted soon, although a firm date has not been set, Locklar said.