Fisk University Gymnastics Makes History As First HBCU Team In NCAA Competition | What Took So Long??

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 06: Fisk University gymnastics poses for a team photo prior to a meet at the Orleans Arena on January 6, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Stew Milne/Getty Images)

Fisk University made history on Jan. 6 at the inaugural Super 16 event in Las Vegas as the first historically Black college or university to compete in NCAA gymnastics.

The long-awaited debut was well worth the wait, with the ladies of Fisk putting on a dazzling performance against top 15 NCAA programs such as the University of North Carolina, the University of Washington and Southern Utah University.

Where Did Fisk University Place In First Gymnastics Event? 

The Lady Bulldogs placed fourth overall with a score of 186.700. Morgan Price, Kiara Richmon, Aliyah Reed-Hammon, and Liberty Mora were among the top standouts in their respective events.

Price was a five-star recruit that turned heads by posting the highest score on the vault with a near perfect landing and 9.9 score that led everyone.

The ladies turned heads with how well they competed despite the team only being around for a year and is featuring mostly freshmen. Their athleticism shocked the competition, but their grace and black girl magic took bystanders’ breath away in a viral TikTok video of the young ladies.

Why Aren’t There More HBCU Gymnastics Programs?

According to Forbes, between 1987 and 2020 18 HBCUs were underfunded by an aggregate of $12.8 billion, adjusted for inflation. Most of the more than 100 HBCUs in the country are struggling financially. When you face an uphill battle with finances it is hard to add sports such as gymnastics that are very specialized and don’t generate much revenue for universities.

This creates problems for school to get the proper equipment such as gym mats, balance beams, or vaults, and some schools don’t even have the proper facilities to accommodate a gymnastics team’s practice schedule.

The last piece to this puzzle is participation. Only 10 percent of African-Americans participate in gymnastics in America. Gymnastics is not as appealing to the Black community as basketball and football, so finding experienced gymnasts of color to compete at the college level is challenging for even the Power 5 schools with endless recruiting resources.

That seems to be slowly changing because of efforts by pioneer coaches such as Corrinne Tarver.

Who Is Corrinne Tarver?

The Lady Bulldogs’ head coach Corrinne Tarver spoke with ESPN reporters before the weekend long event about her team’s historic moment.

“Something that’s a long time coming, and I’m so proud to be able to bring the team to the floor that is a historically Black college and university. It’s the first time ever so we’re ready to go,” stated Tarver to ESPN prior to the event.

Tarver is no stranger to making history. She was the first black gymnast to win an NCAA-all-around title in 1989.

Fisk has opened opportunities for young African-American women to compete and has turned heads for other HBCUs to start programs of their own.

In September, the Bulldogs appeared on the “JHUD” show hosted by Jennifer Hudson as their first national television appearance to introduce themselves to the world just ahead of their 2023 competition debut.

The Bulldogs will compete in their next event on Jan. 13 which will feature the 2021 NCAA champion University of Michigan.