Howard University’s Swim Team Makes Sports Illustrated History

The school’s swim and dive team became the first all-Black swim team to be featured on the cover.

Howard University’s men and women’s swim and dive team is on the cusp of earning the Northeast Conference champion bragging rights. However, it appears they already have a lot to brag about.

The prestigious HBCU makes history, as they become the first all-Black swim and dive team to land the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine.

Yes, the team is currently dominating with their record (women: 5-3, men: 6-2 overall), but the victories are deeper than the competition.

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“This is about our mission as a university and the message we want to send as an HBCU,” says HU’s swim coach, Nicholas Askew in the SI cover story. “This isn’t a bunch of Black people in a pool; it’s young Black men and women succeeding in a sport that, for years, has shut them out of this experience.

College athletics faces underrepresentation and exposure of Black athletes, and those numbers do not magically get better for swimming. According to Sports Illustrated, less than 1.5% of the country’s 295,078 competitive swimmers are Black in the United States.

The number of HBCU swim programs dwindled over the last several decades. Howard has roughly one-third of the country’s Black college swimmers, so you could probably take a stab at the enormous amount of Black swimmers that never get a chance to compete at the college level.

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“How are you going to get a Black boy or girl interested in your sport when they don’t see a future for themselves, because no one looks like them?” the coach asks. “That’s not offering representation; that’s not expanding this sport. That’s shutting out an entire group of people.”

Askew has turned the program around: alumni donations, professional painting for the pool, dancers and DJ for swim meets.

The Bison’s has come a long way from players showing up sometimes hungover at practices throughout the years to narrowing close to a Northeast Conference swim championship, with competition starting on Feb. 21.

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