Celebrities and College Athletic Scholarships

Senior Assistant Editor, Scholarship Manager, Wintergreen Orchard House

Jun   2012



Who would have thought that one of the most talked about college sports stories in the last few weeks includes UCLA and P. Diddy?

In case you haven't heard, P. Diddy's son, Justin Combs, recently received a $54,000 scholarship to UCLA to play Division I football. When I first heard this, I thought it was absolutely crazy considering how much money this family has, but after reading a little further into the topic, I'm starting to rethink my original position.

It’s a little humbling to realize how we can make quick assumptions when we read headlines such as, “Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs Son Given Full Football Scholarship by UCLA” or “Justin Combs, P. Diddy's Son, Gets UCLA Football Scholarship Despite School's Struggle With Finances,” but not really get the full story.

The immediate assumptions

  • P. Diddy is worth millions (actually, according to Forbes, half a billion dollars!). He can absolutely pay a “measly” $54,000 a year for his child's college tuition.
  • Justin is the son of a millionaire, so UCLA must be using him to gain more exposure during the off-season or when P. Diddy comes to visit for games.
  • Just another celebrity getting, in a way, free swag . . . what else is new?
  • How good is Justin Combs anyways? What makes him more deserving than a student-athlete from Alabama or Wyoming to not only play Division I football but also receive such an incredible scholarship?

The facts behind the headlines

  • Justin actually has the book smarts to back up the scholarship. According to the Huffington Post, Justin graduated with a 3.75 GPA, which is a solid “A” average for his high school career. Pretty impressive.
  • As I mentioned in one of my last posts about the NCAA divisions and their scholarships, Division I schools have a lot of money available to athletes. UCLA even made a statement specifically about Justin's recruitment:

Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability--not their financial need. . . . Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds. Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts, and private donations from supporters.

  • There was a lot of outrage across the country because to most people, scholarships are scholarships. I think it is easier now after the clarification that the money is there specifically for these athletes and that Mr. Combs is not necessarily taking it from another deserving student.
  • As far as athletic talent is concerned, the kid is actually quite capable. In his final season, he only had “one interception and threw four touchdowns.” He’s a versatile player, having played both quarterback and cornerback positions.

The bottom line

I think UCLA has found a great opportunity in Justin Combs with the celebrity affiliation and the fact that he can play football. Justin is a strong athlete, who, like any other athlete, was given a scholarship for his athletic achievements. You can’t even rag on him because he was a bad student; he averaged probably higher than most kids his age. The only difference here is that this kid has P. Diddy as a dad.

Here’s hoping though that Papa Diddy sends in some money to the school to maybe fund another student or two’s dreams of attending UCLA to even all of this out. It might just be the perfect compromise!

How would you feel if you were a student at UCLA with extensive loans and found out that a celebrity child was attending for free?

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About Megan Gibbs

Megan Gibbs

Megan is the Assistant Director of Online Marketing and Analytics Carnegie Communications, where she has worked since graduating from Merrimack College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. When not daydreaming about winning an Emmy or Oscar as a screenwriter, she spends her days working as Wintergreen’s editor for colleges and universities in the Southeast and building their scholarship database. As an avid sports fan and high school athlete herself, Megan not only looks forward to all Boston sports seasons, but also can't wait to root for her younger sister as she begins her Merrimack College softball career as a catcher this upcoming fall. She hopes to provide a fun and unique look at college and university-level athletics from March Madness, scholarships, and recruitment to intramurals and athletic culture! 

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