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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are embracing new athletic opportunities for students. Hockey, gymnastics, golf, and other “non-traditional” sports are now being considered as extracurricular activities for students at HBCUs.
Hockey? No, really.
In particular, hockey is growing in popularity with Black athletes. While there were only four Black hockey players in NCAA Division 1 and 2 schools last year, this year the number has grown to 13.
One such HBCU, Tennessee State, recently announced a partnership with Nashville’s National Hockey League team for a feasibility study on providing a hockey program for the school. Moreover, NBA superstar Steph Curry recently funded a golf program at Howard University, one of the most well-known HBCUs in the country.
Volleyball is also being considered at several HBCUs, following investments in new opportunities for these women to engage in sports. Gymnastics has been another consideration for both men and women as an extracurricular sport.
There has long been discussion centered around HBCU and sports opportunities for college students, particularly since so many elite Black athletes end up at NCAA Division 1 or 2 universities. Meanwhile, Division 1 schools like the University of Oklahoma are predominantly attended by white students, and do not offer the same college experience for Black students as they would have attending an HBCU.
Part of the discourse on Black college athletes centers around the exploitation of athletes who are not paid for their sports participation, no matter what school they attend. Both NCAA football and basketball bring millions of dollars to the universities, regardless of the team’s record. Meanwhile, student athletes are still prohibited from receiving payment or individual sponsorships.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Black student athletes have spoken out about the expectations placed upon them during their college years. Those who planned to avoid sports out of health concerns were often forced to play in order to maintain their school eligibility; while others who wanted to play were prohibited due to COVID-19 policies.
HBCUs offering sports programs can help mitigate that exploitation of student athletes, while providing a safe environment for Black students across the country. In a time when young Black men and women face danger every time they leave home, offering sports opportunities for elite Black athletes is yet another reason for Black students to choose an HBCU.