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How the Utah Jazz’s scholarship initiative will work

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Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, and his wife, Ashley Smith, appear at a press conference announcing Smith’s purchase of the Utah Jazz from Gail Miller at Vivint SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. On Thursday, the team announced how a scholarship initiative Ryan Smith announced in January will work.

Melissa Majchrzak

In early January, new Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith was a guest on “The Woj Pod” with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and during the podcast, he informally announced that the Jazz were starting an initiative to award a college scholarship to someone from an underrepresented or minority community in Utah every time the team won a game.

Since then, of course, the Jazz have jumped out to the best record in the NBA, and 30 scholarships have been pledged.

“It was something that the players were really excited about when they heard about it,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said on Thursday. “Obviously any extra motivation [to win] is welcome. I think just in general giving a young man or young woman the opportunity to develop, evolve and embrace education is something that’s incredibly important, and the diversity component benefits everybody.”

On Thursday, the team announced how those scholarships — officially called the Utah Jazz Scholarship — can be applied for and how they will be awarded.

The first 30 will go to students who will start college this fall at either BYU, SUU, Weber State, Utah, Utah State or UVU. Scholarships pledged during the remainder of this season will be awarded for the 2022-2023 school year. Scholarships will cover tuition, books, fees and room and board for the recipient’s full undergraduate education at one of the above listed schools.


Applicants must meet the following qualifications to be eligible:

  • A graduate of a Utah high school.
  • A person of color.
  • Preference will be given to those with “demonstrated financial need” and first-generation college students.
  • Only students who will be enrolling as freshmen full-time in the 2021-2022 school year are eligible.
  • Deadline to apply is April 2.

Application process

An application must be filled out at this link. As part of the application, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach or mentor is required (may not be a family member), as is a one to two-minute video answering one of the following prompts:

  • Talk about an obstacle you faced and how you overcame it.
  • What do you hope to accomplish after you graduate from college?
  • Who is someone who has had a major influence on your life? Explain their impact and your relationship with them.

An unofficial high school transcript and financial aid information “such as a Student Aid Report from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid” must also be included.

Scholarship recipients will serve as ambassadors for the scholarship program, be offered “guidance and assistance in the form of mentorships, job shadowing, and internship and job placement support,” have opportunities to meet representatives of the Jazz organization and attend annual gatherings of the scholarship recipients.

“We want the best talent in the world in Utah and are excited to start with these six Utah universities,” Smith tweeted in part on Thursday.

Jazz players have been vocal in their support of the program over the past two months, and on Thursday, Mike Conley quickly retweeted Smith’s tweet, while Georges Niang quoted it and wrote, “This is amazing @utahjazz”