Howard University’s Swim and Dive team became the first all-Black swim team to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
It’s not that HBCUs haven’t been represented on the cover. Numerous times, HBCU legends have been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, from Hall of Famer Walter Payton to Deion Sanders. It’s the fact that Howard’s all-Black swim team on the cover provided the necessary representation in a sport that white people dominate. The cherry on top is that money wasn’t used to make this achievement happen.
“Nobody in America can offer what we have in our pool,” the Bison’s swimming team’s coach Nic Askew said. “Where else are you going to see this?”
Howard University is the sole HBCU with an intercollegiate swim team and has been since the 1940s.
“This is about our mission as a university and the message we want to send as an HBCU,” Askew said. “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.”
Askew told the magazine that he kept track of the number of competitive black swimmers in the world and the number of Black college swimmers in America. According to his calculations, of the 295,078 swimmers in the country, only 1.5% are Black. And one-third of the Black college swimmers are on Howard’s campus. Askew, the coach of 50 Howard swimmers, would think about what it would have been like if the students didn’t have the support Howard provided through the swim team. He went further explained the importance of representation in the sport.
“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?” he asked. “That’s not offering representation; that’s not expanding this sport. That’s shutting out an entire group of people.”
Askew said he firmly believes that “opportunities should be for everyone,” and he’s proud of his position, providing opportunities to many Black students through the swimming and diving program.
Askew is a four-time MVP-awarded athlete who has broken several swimming records. Months ago, he was inducted into the HU Athletics Hall of Fame.