Howard Becomes Only HBCU With Swim Team

After North Carolina A&T disbands its swim team this weekend, the Mecca will be the only game in town for swimmers who want to go to a historically black school.

Drummers from Howard University’s Marching Band perform in 2013
Drummers from Howard University’s Marching Band perform in 2013 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, the Internets got broke when a photo of the North Carolina A&T women’s swim team burned up social media—a beacon of beautiful #BlackGirlMagic for all the world to see.

Unfortunately, not long after that, it was announced that that swim team would be no more, because the school’s regular conference does not offer swimming championships. That left Howard University as the remaining HBCU with a men’s and women’s swim team—and with no HBCU rival. The Washington Post reports that about 20 percent of the Division I black swimmers were represented by either North Carolina A&T or Howard.

“From the surface level, people say I should be happy: Now your rival is no longer. But would Carolina be happy if Duke shut their basketball program down?” asks Howard Head Coach Nic Askew.

Askew, who decided to go into coaching after he lost his 33-year-old brother to cancer (“I wanted fulfillment in what I was doing rather than a big bank account,” he says), has already created a swimming sponsor program at the Mecca and says he also plans to collaborate with USA Swimming on a spring clinic for Howard faculty and staff after the season.

According to a national study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 70 percent of black children have low or no swimming ability, compared with 40 percent of their white peers. And African-American kids ages 5 to 14 have a drowning fatality rate of almost three times that of their white peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coach recognizes that the HU swimming program is important both for its visibility and on a life-skill level.

“We have to continue to push for our program to be in existence so we can be an example,” says Askew. “At the end of the day, at Howard we want to be an example of why you should have a program—because we have success stories. We are a case study for how it can work.”

Here’s to those swimming Bison! You know! 

Read more at the Washington Post.