South Carolina’s Staley: Worries about slurs toward players prompted cancellation of series vs. BYU

Women’s basketball coach pulled out of home-and-home agreement due to incident involving Duke volleyball player in Provo

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley cuts the net after a college basketball game in the final round of the Women's Final Four NCAA tournament against UConn Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Minneapolis. South Carolina won 64-49 to win the championship. Staley pulled her team out of a home-and-home series against BYU over fear of racial slurs being directed toward her players. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Darlington, S.C. • South Carolina’s Dawn Staley said she did not want her players in line for any verbal abuse at BYU, which is why she chose to call off the schools’ home-and-home series.

When Staley heard the account of Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson’s experience at BYU — Richardson said she heard a racial slur directed at her — the two-time national championship coach “did not want to put her players in that situation.”

Staley, whose team won its latest NCAA title this past April, was at Darlington Raceway on Sunday to serve as the honorary pace car driver for the Southern 500.

Staley said she vetted all angles of what happened at BYU and talked to several people.

“I slept on it a few nights, I woke up with the same gut feeling I should not put our players in that situation,” she said before the race.

The Twitter account for BYU’s women’s team posted a link to an op-ed from athletic director Tom Holmoe on Friday, along with the words: “We are extremely disappointed in South Carolina’s decision to cancel our series and ask for patience with the on-going investigation. We believe the solution is to work together to root out racism and not to separate from one another.”

BYU also apologized and Holmoe spoke to Richardson.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to open this season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then go to the Provo, Utah, campus during the 2023-24 season.

Staley said she’s had discussions with some schools about replacing the Cougars in the opener.

Staley said she didn’t discuss it with her players, telling them of her choice Friday without much fanfare.

“This was a selfish decision,” she said. “I was only thinking about South Carolina women’s basketball.”

Staley acknowledged that South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner was supportive of her decision. Staley also said she didn’t want to involve Richardson because she didn’t want the Blue Devils sophomore reliving the incident.

“I just wanted to make sure our players didn’t have to endure that,” Staley said. “Because if something happened of that manner, I don’t have the words to comfort them.”

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