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Why did Bebe Rexha wear a University of Tampa sweatshirt to Michelle Obama's college event?

In this screengrab from Instagram, singer Bebe Rexha is seen wearing a University of Tampa sweatshirt. She wore the shirt to Michelle Obama's College Signing Day event at UCLA in Los Angeles on May 1, 2019. Screengrab via instagram.com/beberexha.
Published May 2

On Wednesday, former first lady Michelle Obama hosted an event at UCLA called College Signing Day, celebrating high school students from diverse and low-income backgrounds who were pledging to attend college. Lots of celebrities attended, many in university-themed gear. Kelly Rowland wore a Grambling hoodie, John Legend and Elizabeth Banks repped the University of Pennsylvania, and Obama herself rocked a Compton College tee.

And then there was Bebe Rexha, who chose to represent ... the University of Tampa.

The Grammy-nominated singer popped up on stage in a black Spartans sweatshirt with block red and white lettering, singing her smash hit Meant to Be. She later posted a photo of her outfit to Twitter and Instagram, attracting more than 200,000 likes on Instagram alone, plus a whole lot of comments from UT students, alums and fans.

REPPIN' TAMPA!! Dats my girl! wrote radio personality Rose from The Kane Show on 93.3-FLZ.

We think you need a UTampa Hockey jersey for your next picture, wrote UT hockey team's official account.

If Rehxa has some connection to the relatively small private university, it's well hidden. She was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Staten Island and broke into the business through a connection to Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, who enlisted her in his side band Black Cards. She broke through first as a songwriter (Eminem and Rihanna's The Monster), then as a solo artist (Me, Myself and I with G-Eazy; Hey Mama with David Guetta). Meant to Be, her collaboration with Florida Georgia Line, set a new record for the longest-running No. 1 country song ever, and helped earn her a Best New Artist Grammy nomination.

Rexha has performed in Tampa several times over the years, most recently at December's 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball. She's coming back in August as the opening act for the Jonas Brothers.

But none of this ties back to the University of Tampa.

School spokesman Eric Cardenas said Rexha's photo sent his staff scrambling for an explanation, but so far, all they've been able to verify is that she is not an alumna. The school doesn't have many celebrity graduates -- athletes Tino Martinez and Lou Piniella, former governors Bob Martinez and Rod Blagojevich, pro wrestler Chyna. And good luck finding a photo of any celebrity wearing UT gear for any reason.

It's possible Rexha chose the shirt because it ties in with the red and black color scheme of her new single Last Hurrah (see official videos here, here and here; and recent looks here and here). If that's the case, it still doesn't explain why she went with UT over, say, Louisville, Texas Tech or the University of Georgia.

We've reached out to Rexha's reps, and will update you if they share an explanation.

In the meantime, good luck finding one of those sweatshirts for yourself. It appears to be part of a Champion sweatsuit, one of which recently sold on Poshmark for $17. But it's no longer carried in UT's official online store.

Said Cardenas: "We may need to restock it."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

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