Combs scholarship highlights NCAA problems


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In the headlines concerning Justin Combs's recent acceptance of a $54,000 football scholarship from UCLA, reporters have undermined his significance in headlines usually referring him as "P. Diddy's son."

The son of the rap mogul and entrepreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs is a two-star recruit listed at an undersized 5-9 and 170 pounds, according to Scout.com. While playing on the varsity team at New Rochelle Iona Prep, he led his team to a mediocre 11-12 overall record, with just one interception last season, according to maxpreps.com.

The media surrounding this situation have been wildly supportive of the young Combs, stating that his 3.75 GPA has earned him the right to play.

However, the real problem here is that the scholarship is an investment for the program to make money and an example of NCAA manipulation of its players for a financial benefit. The UCLA statement explains the scholarship itself as Combs's merit is raised by an ability to raise ticket sales with his celebrity, and his father is now a fantastic candidate for individual donations.

Academically, the kid has proven his intelligence, but on the football field, his record has not deserved the offers he also received from Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, and our own University of Iowa — a sign that we, too, were hunting his fame for a profit. He's been compared in articles to Trey Griffey, Ken Griffey Jr.'s son who recently signed a full ride with Arizona, but Griffey earned his scholarship as an All American wide receiver. Combs was listed as the No. 819th player in the nation, according to maxpreps.com.

The argument has been that the kid doesn't deserve the scholarship because of his father's wealth, which is the wrong lens. That is a problem that has gone unaddressed in Division 1 football and just comes down to the ethics of his father. Andrew Luck's father reportedly earned $405,600 last year, and James Ferentz, our own starting center, accepted two separate Hawkeye Visions scholarships as his father made $1.72 million last year.

College athletics programs are supposed to represent the best of American meritocracy, rewarding talent and hard work with education, but as we've seen recently, and with this case especially, it's being manipulated for a financial benefit. This scholarship proves that Division 1 football is no longer a vehicle for an education but a lucrative performance enabled by the manipulation of 18- and 17-year-old boys. Our university has even become one of the nation's best at doing this, profiting $23,996,025 last year — more than Oregon and USC combined, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

A similar situation came up in the 2008-09 season of Division-1 basketball when Lil' Romeo, son of rap mogul Master P, was offered a scholarship to play at USC, standing 5-10 and averaging only 8.6 points per game in high school. USC head coach Tim Floyd had no shame telling the Wall Street Journal that his scholarship was for ticket sales, saying, "We may have more 11- to 17-year-old girls in the stands than we've had in the past."

But like at USC, UCLA's investment will likely turn on it. Lil' Romeo left the team with only 19 minutes of playing time after the season ended, and the prestige of a USC basketball scholarship was tarnished forever.

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