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Answer Sheet
Posted at 12:52 PM ET, 12/04/2011

Students win $100,000 scholarships by tossing footballs

There are a lot of college scholarships available that can be classified as unusual, even eccentric.

As my colleague Daniel de Vise reported in this story, there’s one at Johns Hopkins University for a student who loves reinforced concrete, and the University of Mary Washington offers scholarships to two students who play bagpipes in a school band.

There are scholarships that go to students with specific names, or who are left-handed. And who can’t love the Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Challenge, which awards money to students who go their high school prom in an outfit made out of duck tape. Really. The 2011 winners won $5,000 each and the same amount for their schools.

But here’s one that may take the unconventional cake because of how much money is involved and the way the winners are chosen.

At Saturday night’s SEC Championship game between LSU and Georgia, Ivon Padilla-Rodriguez, a freshman at the University of Nevada-Reno, competed against another student by throwing footballs through a giant Dr. Pepper can with a two-foot opening five yards away.

Padilla-Rodriguez threw 13 footballs into the can in the 30-second time limit, a few more than her opponent, and was handed a check for $100,000 from the president of Dr. Pepper, Jim Johnson. (The runner-up won $23,000 in scholarship money.)

She was selected to compete at the SEC game (four other finalists were in the mix but only two made it to the big game) through a process that involved applicants submitting a video explaining why they needed the money and how they would help their community. How did she do so well? She got some tutoring from the quarterback at her school.

And she wasn’t the only grand prize $100,000 winner.

As part of the 2011 Dr. Pepper Million Dollar Tuition Giveaway Promotion and Contest, four other students are getting the same amount of money, in the same way, at other championship games.Three others took place this weekend, and the last, the Cotton Bowl, will be awarded in January. In fact; the deadline for that contest is Dec. 15. There will be many scholarships of much lesser value awarded by Dr. Pepper, too, to other video applicants and through other promotions.

Nothing wrong with giving financial help to kids who need it. But the main point here isn’t helping needy kids — or else football-throwing skill wouldn’t likely be the final arbiter. It’s all about giving Dr. Pepper huge audiences to market.

If corporate America really wants to help needy kids, there has to be better ways. Like a serious college scholarship program.

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By  |  12:52 PM ET, 12/04/2011

 
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