SALT LAKE CITY — In early January, new Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith made a pretty stunning announcement: He would be awarding a full-scholarship to an underrepresented person of color for each Jazz victory this season.
It's been something the Jazz players have rallied around, as they've jumped out to a 27-9 start to the season. The wins are good for the standings — Smith also will give three scholarships for the three preseason victories — but the players know they are most impactful to students.
"Obviously, you play for a championship and play to win, but you're playing for an even greater cause," Donovan Mitchell said. "I think that's just something that's just unmatched, and credit to Ryan Smith and his family and ownership for doing that because that's just really unheard of — especially with how many games that we play."
On Thursday, the Jazz announced the details of the Utah Jazz Scholars Program.
The first 30 scholarships — which will cover tuition, books, fees, and room and board — will be granted to students enrolling as freshmen for the 2021-22 academic year. All remaining scholarships that result from additional wins this season will be awarded beginning with the 2022-2023 school year.
Students can apply for the scholarship by visiting utahjazzfoundation.org. Applications must be submitted by April 2.
So who is eligible?
Recipients will have to meet the following criteria:
- Graduate of a Utah high school
- Person of color
- Demonstrated financial need
- Has been admitted to one of these Utah universities: Brigham Young University, Southern Utah University, University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Utah State University, and Weber State University
- Incoming freshman enrolling as a full-time student
As Smith said in January, the program is specifically designed to help students of color have better access to higher education. It will also give preference for first-generation college students.
"People of color are underrepresented in the classroom and workforce relative to the rest of the population, with Black and African American, Hispanic and Latinx, and Native American and Alaska Native groups remaining half as likely as their white peers to have a bachelor's degree or higher and having higher unemployment rates than their white counterparts," a Jazz press release said.
The goal of the program is to bridge the education gap between populations.
"We have equity problems across pay, across race within our communities. And, I just want to look back and say 'Hey, I did everything I possibly could to make the world a more equitable place'," Smith said on an ESPN podcast in January where he first mentioned the program. "Our group plans on using this platform to be able to drive proper changes that, frankly, should've been done a long time ago, but to help better our communities."