In the inaugural year of the HBCU Capitol Classic Rivalry Game, the trophy is coming home to DC!

For the first-time ever, the two Capitol City HBCUs — Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Delaware State University in Dover, DE, got together for inclusive competition on the basketball court on March 22nd, 2024!

As the Howard and Delaware State NCAA Division I basketball teams took to the court to play their regular season MEAC Conference Games, leading up to a rematch in the MEAC Final, the Howard Special Olympics Club and Delaware State Intramural Department began planning for their own inclusive Rivalry Game as part of the ESPN-sponsored Rivalry Series. Joining students from Howard’s second-year Special Olympics College Club plus a select roster of college-aged Special Olympics athletes from DC, the team began practicing and set their eyes on the big game.

Special Olympics Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability. That makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all. Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away.

After competing against other DC colleges in DC’s Unified Basketball College League, the Howard team was ready for their Rivalry match-up. The team loaded onto the bus for Dover, Delaware, unsure of what to expect for this game between two first-year Unified teams. All they knew was they had each other and were excited to represent Howard University in this inclusive experience. 

Howard Unified put the first 8 points on the board, but it then became apparent that Delaware State Unified had their own shooters, and by the half the game was tied 30-30. In the locker room, co-captains D3 Williams, a Special Olympics DC athlete, and Christopher Spencer, a freshman at Howard, encouraged the team to keep calm and focus on ball movement and smart shooting. They reminded the team that no matter what happened in the second half, they were making history and proud to do it.

In the second half, Howard finally pulled ahead thanks to three-pointers from D3 Williams (SODC), Marcus Allen (SODC), Christopher Spencer (Howard), and Christian Evan Owens (Howard). Power and rebounds in front of the basket came from DeAndre Burris (SODC), Saint Anthony Taylor (SODC), and CJ Johnson (SODC). Howard’s Nicole Tyler came through sinking necessary foul shots. The bench energy kept the team grounded thanks to SODC Athlete-Coaches Adrian Minard and Jermal Simmons and Howard student Zaina Brown.

Howard finished on top in the end, winning 70-54, bringing home the shared trophy this year. The team continues to connect and play together in DC’s College Unified Basketball League against other Unified teams with students from American University, Catholic University, and George Washington University. The team is excited to continue growing the partnership between Howard University and Special Olympics DC, and of course, plans to keep the HBCU Capitol Classic Trophy in DC, where it belongs.