Destiny Alfred won something many Americans can only dream of under the current system: a chance at debt-free higher education.
A high schooler from Spring, Alfred won $100,000 toward her college expenses when she begins at Texas Woman’s University next fall.
She achieved the feat by throwing more footballs through a target than her opponent during halftime at the Pac 12 championship football game. Alfred completed 10 throws while her opponent made eight.
Alfred plans to major in biology at TWU before entering medical school to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. The profession specializes in surgery to organs within the chest, specifically the heart.
In a video she made while applying for the competition, Alfred said she’s had two open heart surgeries herself, so she wants to be able to help others in similar situations.
Her prize money will be given directly to TWU, which means she likely won’t need to pay taxes on it like other winnings, but she said Sunday it will “expire” on Dec. 31, 2023. She doesn’t expect to graduate until spring 2024.
Even though money will likely be left over, Alfred won’t get to pocket the remaining funds.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Alfred said Sunday afternoon.
She said she’d practiced a lot in the days and weeks leading up to the competition.
“My dad has had me outside almost every day,” practicing on an imitation target he had made, Alfred said this past week.
While scared of the process as she walked down to the field Friday night, she said her training started to kick in when the competition began.
“Once the ref said we could start, I zoned out,” she said Sunday.
While she sunk the first few throws without any problem, she said she “snapped back in” when a ball slipped out of her hands. Regardless, she pulled out a win.
Her phone has been blowing up in the past few days, and she said most comments are from people surprised she decided to throw the footballs in the traditional way. Most competitors, including her opponent on the field in California, try a sort of chest pass.
While she walked away with the grand prize, her on-field opponent earned $25,000 for her part, and the two remaining finalists who didn’t make it past the semifinals each received $2,500 toward their tuition.
Identical setups went down at the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 championship games. In total, Dr. Pepper gave away $650,000 in tuition money to those students over the weekend.
A spokesperson working on behalf of the brand declined to provide how much was spent each year on air travel, lodging and other logistic costs associated with the annual competitions.
While the brand boasts of having given away more than $10 million since the competition started in 2008, that seems to be a relatively cheap advertising campaign, especially compared to the multimillion-dollar cost of running a single commercial during halftime at the Super Bowl.
The brand held similar competitions, which held the potential for a $1 million payout, before the 2008 shift toward having students compete for tuition dollars. The move came within a few months of the collapse of Lehman Brothers amid the 2008 financial crisis.
The tradition has maintained its popularity through the what some have referred to a “student debt crisis,” in which approximately 44 million Americans carry $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, according to MIT researchers.