Is UCLA running a legit football program or an athletic social club for the kids of hip-hop’s elite?
Is Bruins head coach Jim Mora Jr. trying to win games or play rainmaker for the cash-strapped athletics department? He’s the hip-hop ambassador to football now?
First UCLA signs hip-hop mogul P.Diddy’s son Justin Combs and now on ESPNU’s National Signing Day on Wednesday, it was announced that UCLA has Snoop Dogg’s pass-snatching son Cordell Broadus in the fold.
The Green Machine has infiltrated Rose Bowl Stadium.
In fact, Snoop was already earning his son some PT by appearing on the network clad in true blue and gold, with a black Adidas jacket and a wool black Kangol-style bucket hat. The Bruins football program has become a regular old rap reunion. I’m seeing a lot of ciphers popping off in that locker room.
The groupies are going to be at UCLA football games in full twerk mode too. If there’s two young cats who can bring an unprecedented excitement and national interest to a UCLA team that hasn’t won a National C'hip since 1954, it’s the sons of two of Hip-Hop’s Godfathers.
Snoop is probably going to have an entire section for every home game. Knowing him, he’ll be at the away games too. Diddy will be flying in by private jet. I wonder if they will let the homie land inside the stadium before kickoff.
Mora’s Morals On Point?
No university wants the perception that it’s being pimped. The NCAA certainly doesn’t want that kind of negative attention. When we allow athletic programs to be bought off and alleviate standards just so the school's treasure chest can be fed by the country’s elite—that sends a terrible message about education in this country which is supposed to be available to all, but is rarely as accessible to the average person as it is to the wealthy.
But that's not what's happeng here. According to most reports and rankings, these guys are legit. They have put in the work and earned the right to be a scholar-athlete at a major univeristy. You know they have had the best training and access to all of the clinics, coaching and opportunities that a player needs to acquire a college scholarship. They have kept their noses clean, excelled academically and are more than ready to spit 100 bars of flames at the game of life. Role model material in the making no doubt.
In addition, the job Mora has done at UCLA doesn’t give us any reason to think that he'd do anything to jeopardize the program’s growth.
After going 21-30 during the Rick Neuheisel era, in December of 2011, UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero hired the former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks HC, as the Bruins' 16th sideline stalker. Mora signed a three-year contract.
The results of the new regime were immediate and Mora’s recruiting savvy was evident, as UCLA finessed a consensus #12 ranked recruiting class in 2012 after having a class ranked in the high-40s at Rick Neuheisel's departure.
In Mora's first season, the Bruins finished 9–5. In Mora's second season, the Bruins improved to 10–3, capping the season with a victory in the 2013 Sun Bowl. They were 10-3 again this past season and won the Alamo Bowl and beat crosstown rivals USC for the second straight year.
Mora brought the program back to respectability, but now—in perception at least—Mora’s entering some dangerous territory. Especially if these guys can’t ball.
Diaper-Dandy Diamonds Or Daddy’s Boys?
Broadus, the four-star Under Armour All-American receiver who is ranked 130th in the ESPN 300 also had offers from Arizona State, Baylor, LSU and USC. That's not a slouch list of schools.
The 6-3, 192-pounder was ranked the 27th best receiver in the nation by Rivals.com and caught 39 passes for 602 yards and 11 touchdowns as Bishop Gorman went undefeated and won the Nevada Division I state championship.
"I feel that UCLA is the best fit for me," Broadus said during his announcement on ESPNU. "I had the offer since my ninth-grade year, so I had a great connection with the coaches. I just want to play in front of my family and keep ballin' out on the field and get a great degree."
UCLA is already reaping the off-field benefits of signing Snoop’s baby baller, as his recruitment has been the subject of a five-part documentary series on ESPN called "Snoop & Son: A Dad's Dream."
Snoop is one of hip-hop’s all-time rappers. He’s built an impenetrable brand which has expanded from gangsta rap to movies, TV and commercial endorsements. Snoop is a cultural phenomenon and one of the last remaining musical icons who can still smoke weed freely and not be judged for it. According to Snoop, he has only been out-smoked one time and that was by the “great Willie Nelson.”
Equal to his love of music is Snoop’s infatuation with football. It wasn’t a microphone (or cheeba) that he put into Cordell’s hands at five-years old. It was that pigskin, and Snoop hoped it would build a bigger legacy for the Broadus family than Snoop’s iconic musical kingdom ever could.
"It's been awesome just watching him step into manhood and make a decision that he's comfortable with," Snoop told ESPN.
Justin Combs, the 18-year-old son of hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, will also attend UCLA on a $54,000 football scholarship. Combs got one of the coveted 285 athletic scholarships the university awards every year.
It comes at a time when student fees are rising and a year after the university had to use more than $2 million in student fees to cover an athletic department funding gap. Some students were pretty pissed about that ordeal and many people questioned the authenticity of Combs’ scholarship offer.
That's probably unfair to Justin, who shouldn't be held accountable for his father's wealth. There are oil barrons and tech moguls with money that makes Snoop and Diddy's bank seem like loose change on the street. Their sons and daughters get scholarships and no one has a word to say about it. Stadiums are funded, athletic programs are sustained and both sides benefit from the situation.
Combs is obviously a talented kid, but if his dad couldn’t purchase an entire wing of the university if he chose too, would Combs, the No. 7 recruit in New York (hardly a football factory) according to ESPNU be attending a powerhouse school?
The media blitzi s split on the issue. This may all be worthless banter. Combs' high school coaches and UCLA surely think so. I've had some people come to me in the past week and say racism is the driving force behind anyone questioning the validity of the scholarships. What's good for the goose is good for the gander in 2015, so whatever advantages the boys' fathers had in negotiating their football and educational contracts with the school is just part of the deal. More power to them. At the end of the day, the college education, the people you meet, the connections you make and the lasting impressions gained are what make the experience invaluable.
Who knows if he will live up to the athletic billing, but then again, I'm just looking at it from an athletic stand point.That’s a question that can only be answered in the future, when Combs steps on the field. Regardless of Combs’ abilities, there is a contingent of people who believe that his financial situation should disqualify him from accepting scholarship money that could go to more needy students. Or at the very least, he should forfeit or donate the money.
Daddy Diddy is worth an estimated $500 million and gave his son a $360,000 Maybach car for his 16th birthday. That family isn’t hurting for book money or lodging accommodations. However, Justin Combs, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound defensive back, graduated from New Rochelle Iona Prep in New York with a 3.75 grade point average. He also had scholarship offers from Illinois, Virginia and Wyoming.
Regardless of these guys' talent levels, the totality of their characters ensured that they werent starving for D-1 scholarship offers. UCLA defended the scholarships.
“If needy students are unaffected, there is no problem,” said Emily Resnick, outgoing president of UCLA's Undergraduate Students Association. "If his athletic abilities deserve it, then more power to him."
In any event, the 18-year-old Bruin wasn’t letting anybody steal his shines, as he defended taking the scholarship on Twitter: "Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!! ... PERIOD."
Some people might see it that way, but students like Joelle Gamble, who will graduate from the university in a few weeks, told ESPN that students must come to accept the perception of looser recruiting standards with "extenuating circumstances when it comes to the kids of celebrity parents. She believes that the scholarship could be considered an investment since UCLA would probably benefit by the celebrity Combs could bring to the school.
"It's how college athletics works, she said. “This is how we're going to get money."
Truth vs. Perception: A Slippery Slope
Props to these young ballers and their dads for keeping them on a path to success. After all, it’s not the first time this kind of star chasing has infiltrated college athletics. A few years ago, former Southern California basketball coach Tim Floyd said fame was a factor when he offered a scholarship to rapper Master P's son, Romeo, for the 2008-2009 season. But Romeo left the team in 2010 after playing just 19 minutes in two seasons.
Big-time basketball was really Master P’s dream.
Many of the African-American entertainment moguls of the past twenty-five years grew up in low-income environments that fostered violence, street education, penitentiary blues and prevalent drug use, rather than athletic excellence and college-level pursuits. Once they became game-changers and were accepted into mainstream society’s elite class, they wanted their sons to experience the American Dream, void of the harsh realities of life. In the same way that these moguls manipulated the street game and then corporate game, they use similar tactics in positioning their sons for post-graduate success.
Sounds crazy, but in a world as hypocritical, money-based and competitive as Division 1 college athletics, fat cats who are willing to share their lucrative brand with a corporation in need of some funding are in high demand. Big-time programs need money to compete for Bowl victories and National Championships. UCLA has had its share of reported financial problems over the past decade and it has affected the quality of the most decorated athletic program in NCAA history, with 112 NCAA team championships.
Ballers and Bank Roll
In light of the UCLA athletic department's well-publicized financial difficulties, if adding two players onto the roster with no specific guarantees (we would think) will help Mora continue to win and build UCLA’s program, while bringing the program a heightened visibility and helping it steal the thunder back from USC in terms of star power, then the University will deal with the negative press and assumptions about the talent level of these legendary offspring.
The proof is in the pigskin.
The PR is off the chain. Snoop is a diehard USC fan who is basically declaring that The Trojan horse has fallen. It is Bruins season in LA. If anything can make a father change his athletic stripes and roll with the arch enemy, it’s his son playing for that said enemy.
This was Snoop’s tweet after Cordell chose UCLA: "Channel 21 comin' to @UCLAFootball!! Proud of u @C_Broadus21! LA's team!!" Snoop tweeted. Twenty-one is a reference to the number his son will wear for the team.
It certainly won’t hurt recruiting as UCLA is in the top 10 nationally in that department. Hopefully, it won't hurt the fundamental perception and belief that athletic scholarships are sacred and sports competition ain’t the rap game.
The difference between ballers and rappers was always the talent factor. Your pops can’t buy you onto a field where talent dictates playing time. In rap, things can be manipulated by the machine to make an artist appear superior.
Talent can be suppressed in order to allow a lesser talent to shine. It’s all about who you know. In sports the best man wins because coaches and programs don’t risk victories to make business deals. That's why it wouldn't make sense for UCLA to award scholarships to two players who can't help them win.
UCLA coach Jim Mora says he had offered a scholarship to Broadus when he was just 15 years old. Some laud the move as one of supreme vision and innovative recruiting. Some call it gold-digging politics. Anyway, you look at it college football is a hustle just like the rap game.