Morgan State University is now the only HBCU program to have the sport of wrestling on the Division I Varsity level.
The historically Black university is no stranger to having wrestling on that level, as it’s been 24 years since the university's wrestling team was Division I. The revival comes as a result of a $2.7 million gift from HBCU Wrestling, which is a new initiative reestablishing wrestling programs with HBCUs. The partnership is with billionaire philanthropist and former hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz, who was commemorated as an Outstanding American by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007.
Additionally, Morgan State has been working closely with Baltimore-based nonprofit Beat the Streets to help make the return of wrestling at Morgan State, according to newhof.org.
As the largest received gift from a private donor to the University, the gift will provide funding for men’s wrestling at Morgan State, while also supporting up to nine full scholarships annually.
Morgan State Department of Athletics is also continually assessing the university’s sports portfolio to improve the “access, equity, and opportunities for current or future Morgan State students."
“The purpose behind this donation is to create access and equity which will serve to further diversify the sport of wrestling by providing opportunities for student-athletes that do not currently exist,” said Edward Scott, Ph.D., vice president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Morgan. “We are extremely grateful to Mike Novogratz and HBCU Wrestling for this tremendous contribution to Morgan State University Athletics. This gift is the largest in Morgan athletics history and believed to be one of the largest donations to any HBCU athletics program from a private donor.”
The Morgan State Bears have a rich history when it comes to wrestling. In the 1950s, the Bears dominated the competition throughout the decade before continuing the same trend in the 60s, capturing the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles in 1963, 1964 and 1965, among other achievements.
In 1975, legendary coach James Phillips took over the helm over the next 20 years, leading the Bears to 13 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles. He also earned MEAC Coach of the Year 12 times and was instrumental in hoisting the NCAA Eastern Wrestling Regional Championship in 1984. Phillips helped win four national championships, and more than 75 wrestlers were named All-American under his guidance.