Morgan State University Announces Return of Wrestling Program After Receiving Largest Donation in School’s Athletics History

Morgan State University today announced the return of competitive collegiate wrestling to its athletic programs, making Morgan the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the country to offer the sport of wrestling at the NCAA Division I Varsity level. Following a 24-year hiatus, the sport’s revival comes as the result of the largest donation in history to Morgan’s Athletic Department: a $2.7-million gift from HBCU Wrestling (HBCUW), a new initiative reestablishing wrestling programs on HBCU campuses, in partnership with billionaire philanthropist and former hedge fund manager Mike Novogratz. The University has also been working with Baltimore-based nonprofit Beat the Streets to make the return of wrestling at Maryland’s largest HBCU a reality.

The gift, which is among the largest received from a private donor to the University, will provide funding for men’s wrestling at Morgan and will support up to nine full scholarships annually. In addition to the re-emergence of Wrestling, Morgan State Department of Athletics is continually assessing the University’s sport portfolio to improve the access, equity, and opportunities for current for future Morgan 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 Bears have a rich and illustrious history in the sport of wrestling that began in the early 1950s. The Bears dominated competition throughout that decade and continued the trend in the ’60s, capturing Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) titles in 1963, 1964 and 1965, among many other achievements.

In 1975–76, the legendary coach James Phillips took over and led the Bears to unprecedented success over the next 20 years. Under Phillips, the Bears won 13 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) titles. He also earned MEAC Coach of the Year accolades 12 times and was instrumental in bringing the NCAA Eastern Wrestling Regional Championship to Morgan State University in 1984. Under his guidance, Morgan produced four national champions and had more than 75 wrestlers named All-American. Morgan’s wrestling program was discontinued at the conclusion of the 1996–97 season, in part because of a lack of resources.

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SOURCE: Morgan State Bears