St. Augustine's in Raleigh becomes first HBCU with cycling program

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- This fall St. Augustine's in Raleigh will become the first HBCU with a cycling program.

"We felt like it was a big deal but we didn't realize the size and the scope of what we were getting into when that came out," said professor of sports management, Umar Muhammad. "It's a huge opportunity not only for our students but for the university."

Professor Umar Muhammad wanted to innovate the sports management program at St. Aug's with technology and was skeptical at first when his colleague Mark Janas suggested a cycling program.

"I said I don't know if cycling works for an HBCU based on our culture," said Muhammad. "He shared with me the story of Major Taylor. Early 1900s world champion cyclist. When he shared that story with me I said that probably will fit for an HBCU culture and it's a way for our students to see hope and opportunity in this sport. So we just started. We started polling students and surveying if they are interested in cycling. To our surprise there were tons of students interested in cycling."

"To me right now especially in today's world. it's really another way for all of us to come together," said Student Body President Aaliyah Williams. "I don't really look at it as HBCU, PWI thing even though it is a big part of history because nobody else will be able to say they are a part of the first HBCU cycling team. To me it just means another way for us to come together and the best way for everyone to come together is really sports."

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Student body president and basketball player Aaliyah Williams is one of 10 students on the team which will start competing virtually in the fall against other schools like Duke and NC State in the Collegiate Club Atlantic division.

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"When people usually, typically see HBCUs it's usually football or basketball or sometimes even track," Williams said. "Adding another sport to it that is predominantly white, this is just really important that we can show we can do more than football and basketball and track."

"We feel like the students will definitely gain a sense of competition, a sense of community, a connection to the external community from St Augustine's," said Muhammad. "We think our students will gain sports leadership and management experience putting these races together...we hope it broadens their scope of what's available in the sports industry."

Muhammad said it's important for his students to have a broadened scope of what's available in the sports industry and believes the cycling club can provide them with that.

"It's a long time coming," he said. "I think time is of the essence now. I believe our society is more aware of some of the issues and challenges that we've had in diversity and inclusion. I think now is the right time for these non-traditional type sports to take hold and for us to be involved in those sports to show we can really compete but we also can be a part of something bigger than just basketball and football."
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