The rich get richer as today USC will formally announce a $70 million donation from music mogul Jimmy Iovine and award-winning rapper Dr. Dre to create the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts. But other than giving the school access to high-priced headphones and even more industry connections, the academy’s impact on football and basketball recruiting will be an interesting subplot to watch unfold in the coming years.
While the initial intake of students for the academy will be just 25 in the fall of 2014 –which all but eliminates the notion of frivolous majoring practices– the Trojans have had a recent history with musicians that has to make one think that the academy could be another ploy for Lane Kiffin and Andy Enfield to play up, if needed.
Within the last calendar year, USC has been the landing spot for two athletes with music industry aspirations, Tennessee basketball transfer Renaldo Woolridge and five-star safety Leon McQuay III.
The pair, who go by stage names SB Babyy and LM3 Beats, have been featured on big outlets as student athletes. Woolridge’s ‘Fight On (We Play to Rise)’ became the musical theme of USC’s 2012-13 athletics year, and McQuay produced a song by Infinite Skillz that was used heavily in the promotion of the Under Armour All-American Game on ESPN.
For McQuay specifically, who enrolled at USC in January, academics played an enormous role in his recruitment. While on a recruiting trip in December, McQuay got to show his music to faculty within USC’s Thornton School of Music, with a video of his portfolio review hitting YouTube three weeks before officially enrolling at USC.
Without saying, the opportunities at USC to study and produce music with industry connections while playing football at a major program was the ultimate reason he decided to make the 3,000 mile from Tampa to Los Angeles, rather than going to Vanderbilt, whom McQuay also considered. And that was five months before Dr. Dre and Iovine even entered the mix.
Now, players like Woolridge and McQuay are among a select few athletes that try to excel in music and sports simultaneously. McQuay, as a five-star safety and record producer, is even a rarer commodity.
That said, the academy is immediate name recognition for recruits who have grown up listening to Dr. Dre on their iPods. In a recruiting world where uniforms and spring games at NFL venues have more stock in recruiting decisions than they should, the opportunity to study at a school named after a world famous rapper probably won’t fall on deaf ears of recruits that have a legitimate interest in the music industry.
Plus, it comes at a remarkable time for recruiting in Southern California, with multiple sons of rappers having emerged as recruiting targets at USC, including Snoop Dogg’s son Cordell Broadus and the son of the late Nate Dogg, Naijiel Hale. Even UCLA has Justin Combs, the son of P. Diddy.
Expecting Broadus and Hale to go to USC solely because of Dr. Dre is silly, but recruiting is hands down the silliest aspect of American sports, and Kiffin isn’t doing his job if he doesn’t at least once mention that Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Dr. Dre have all worked together. Multiple times.
“OK, Cordell, let’s Lay Low. Here’s the playbook. It’s like this and like that and like this and uh, it’s like that and like this and like that and uh.”