UCLA defends athletic scholarships

Updated: June 1, 2012, 3:09 PM ET
By Matthew Ehalt | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

Mo money, mo problems.

As Justin Combs, the son of rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, prepares to head to UCLA to play football for the Bruins next season, some are questioning whether the cornerback should pass on the $54,000 athletic scholarship awarded to him by the university because of his family's wealth.

UCLA released a statement Wednesday explaining that athletic scholarships are not based on finances and do not rely on taxpayers' money. The University of California school system is currently facing financial problems.

"Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability -- not their financial need," the statement read. "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.

"Each year, UCLA awards the equivalent of approximately 285 full athletic scholarships to outstanding student-athletes. The scholarships are used by the UCLA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to pay students' tuition and fees, as well as room and board. In this respect, UCLA is no different from the overwhelming majority of Division I institutions."

Combs, a three-star recruit who chose the Bruins over Iowa, Virginia and Illinois, went to Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., and reportedly graduated with a 3.75 GPA. He helped lead the Gaels to the semifinals of the Catholic High School Athletic Association Class AA playoffs last season, primarily playing cornerback but also quarterbacking at times. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound corner had one interception and threw four touchdowns.

Tweets on his account Wednesday seemingly responded to the dialogue regarding his athletic scholarship.

"Regardless what circumstances are, I put that work in!!!! PERIOD," one tweet read.

A later one added: "Regardless of what you do in life every1 is gonna have their own opinion. Stay focused, keep that tunnel vision & never 4get why u started."

When reached Friday, Combs said he did not want to talk about his scholarship.

His father, who could be seen at Iona Prep football games last season and even acted as the team's water boy during a game, is the richest rapper in the industry, with a net worth of $550 million as of April 2012, according to Forbes. When Combs turned 16 two years ago, his father bought him a $360,000 Maybach.

When Combs committed to UCLA in November, his father was overcome with joy.

"As a parent, today is one of the proudest moments of my life," Sean Combs said then in a statement released by DKC Public Relations. "This is everything a father could want for his son, for him to excel at what he loves to do and is truly passionate about. Justin is a shining example of what hard work, determination and a strong mentality can achieve. I am honored to call him my son and am happy that he is fulfilling his dream."

Combs committed to UCLA in the middle of a coaching change, as the school had recently fired Rick Neuheisel. Jim Mora is the new coach.

"It was like love at first sight when I visited there," Combs told ESPNNewYork.com. "I loved the whole tradition of UCLA and the school and the academics and just everything about it."

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