In the wake of Sean "Diddy" Combs allegedly attacking the UCLA strength coach who had a dispute with the entertainer's son, people are asking why his son was offered a scholarship in the first place.
Justin Combs is 5'7 and lacking the elite athleticism needed to overcome size problems and play in the Pac-12. He's played a little special teams, but the Bruins could've found plenty of other players to do the same.
The answer? Because his dad is an extremely popular, mega-rich music mogul.
Don't think Combs' family fame played a role in UCLA offering a scholarship? Rick Neuheisel, the head coach who recruited him to be a Bruin, disagrees:
When you’re weighing the assets of what a youngster can do for your program, there’s no question (being Diddy’s son) had something to do with it for me. Justin is a great kid. His problem was his size. He’s not big enough to be a dominant player. Could he be productive? Yes. The fact his father was an influential guy played into my decision to go ahead and offer him.
Roster construction is chiefly about amassing as much talent as possible, but not to the exclusion of other factors, which often act as tie-breakers.
Sometimes a team will take a player with marginally lesser talent over a better player because the less athletic player has a better academic profile. Maybe the staff is worried it has too many dummies in the building already.
Other times, a player will get an offer over a similar player because he is from a more talented area. And maybe his parents have the means to drive up to a lot of the games and take talented recruits up with them on visits (questionable by the letter of the NCAA law, but impossible to police in practice).
Being the son of a world-famous rapper is a similar differentiating trait. Even though it didn't work out at UCLA, you can see the logic.
Sometimes it works ...
Sometimes it works ...
Having Diddy associated with the UCLA brand instantly made it better (for a while). High schoolers are conscious of the music industry and attracted to celebrity. The idea of having Diddy on the sidelines is just cool. UCLA coaches surely imagined Diddy bringing other celebrities to the sidelines, like what USC had during the Pete Carroll era.
A player with a well-off family is likely to have a nice setup in his dorm, which means that if he shares his place with a roommate or three, their common area is likely to be pretty awesome. Guess whose apartment thus gets shown to recruits when they come to visit?
If the player and parent enjoy the experience of being associated with the program, they might become donors. Forbes estimates Diddy's net worth as $735 million. What if someone like Diddy were to become to UCLA, what Phil Knight of Nike is to Oregon?
And when a recruit's famous parent says something promoting the program or trashing a rival school? Everyone in the media picks up on it, as they did when Snoop Dogg's son signed with UCLA. The famous rapper who'd been a USC fan immediately said he was throwing away his Trojans gear.
A program has 85 scholarships to distribute. Taking a chance on one slightly less talented player is worth it.