One of the more emotional — and viral — moments of the Utah Jazz’s 2020-21 season occurred off the floor as players presented a group of students with full-ride scholarships as part of a new initiative created by team owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.
On Wednesday morning ahead of its first game of the 2021-22 season, the team announced that the Utah Jazz Scholars Program is back this season. Like last season, the program will provide a scholarship to a Utah student from an underrepresented group for every win the Jazz tally in the 2021-22 campaign.
The scholarships can be used at BYU, SUU, the University of Utah, UVU, Utah State and Weber State.
Last season, the Jazz finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA’s Western Conference and racked up 61 wins in all, and thus, 61 scholarships.
The scholarship application for this season opens Nov. 15 and can be found here.
Eligibility criteria includes the following:
- Graduate of a Utah high school.
- Person from an underrepresented group.
- Demonstrated financial need.
- Preference for first-generation college student.
- Incoming freshman enrolling as a full-time student for the 2022-23 school year.
“We believe strongly in the power of education to change lives. The Utah Jazz Scholars Program reflects our desire to help students from underrepresented groups who have historically received fewer resources and less support,” the Smiths said in a statement.
“It’s amazing to think about the fact that for every win the Jazz have this season, a student will get to go to college who would not otherwise have had the opportunity.”
After the announcement, Ryan Smith tweeted, “Couldn’t be more excited. Every win = 4 year scholarship. Bigger than Basketball”
Jael James, a scholarship recipient from last season, said in a statement, “This school year has been a dream for me. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and, of course, the Utah Jazz organization and the players for a winning season.”
The program did come under some criticism last season for being available only to students from underrepresented groups. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox at the time responded to it by saying in part, “if you’re outraged by a private individual trying to help disadvantaged minority kids go to college, then I’m definitely not your guy.”
After the Jazz’s shootaround on Wednesday, guard Mike Conley was asked about the return of the program, which players openly supported last season.
“I think that’s awesome,” Conley said. “I think it’s awesome. I think it was something that, as players, you play a game, but ultimately, the most important thing you can do is service in your communities and helping people out that otherwise might not be able to help themselves in certain situations.
“For that to be something that the Utah Jazz is locked in and keyed on says a lot about our organization, our owner, players and everybody involved. Just excited to be part of it again.”