WCC backs BYU’s investigation into racial slurs, but says some reported language violated sportsmanship policies

The conference issued its statement after its own review of BYU’s investigation.

FILE- In this Nov. 5, 2019, file photo, the West Coast Conference logo is displayed at the court of the McCarthey Athletic Center before an NCAA college basketball game between Gonzaga and Alabama State in Spokane, Wash. 30 college conferences are still planning to hold basketball tournaments where the winner earns the automatic bid to the NCAAs. But the leagues also have until Feb. 26, 2021, to notify the selection committee if there will be any changes to how the automatic bid is awarded. (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

The West Coast Conference has reviewed BYU’s investigation into reports that racial slurs were used at the volleyball match between Duke and BYU, calling it “transparent and thorough,” and backing the university’s response to the allegations.

But the WCC said members of the Duke program reported hearing “language from fans that violated the WCC sportsmanship policies during the match,” and the conference said it could not rule out that slurs may have been used, even if the investigation did not find a “perpetrator.”

In a statement issued by the conference this week, the WCC said it reviewed all the information provided by BYU and determined the athletic department conducted a transparent investigation and that BYU’s officials responded in a sufficient manner when the allegations were brought to their attention during the match.

“Upon review of the information received, we believe the institution implemented the appropriate game management protocols during the match and has since taken the appropriate actions to thoroughly investigate this incident,” the conference said in a statement. “We also believe BYU has adopted appropriate measures and policies to help avoid future incidents.”

During the match, Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson said she heard a person in BYU’s student section shout a “very strong and negative racial slur” at her. BYU banned a fan who was identified by Duke players but later rescinded the ban after an extensive review of video and audio from the match.

“BYU’s inability to locate a perpetrator(s) does not mean the remarks were not said and does not mean BYU did not put the appropriate resources, time and effort into their investigation,” the WCC said in its statement.

During the conference’s review of the information, it said members of the Duke program reported language from fans that violated the WCC sportsmanship policies.

The conference did not specify the nature of that language. It noted that it is a conference bylaw for member institutions, like BYU, to create a safe environment for athletes to play.

“Racist remarks are inappropriate, hurtful and unacceptable,” the statement read. “... The WCC and each of its member institutions stand together in this commitment to root out racism.”

Richardson has said she notified her coaches of what she heard, and BYU officials were made aware of the matter during the match. In her first statement, she said BYU failed in its initial response to her complaint.

The incident set off a national debate over the next two weeks. South Carolina canceled a basketball matchup against BYU, citing safety concerns for its players, even as BYU athletics officials stepped forward to adamantly disavow racism and take action to address it.

BYU initially banned one fan who was identified by Duke as having approached a player after the game, making her uncomfortable, and for allegedly yelling slurs. Later, BYU campus police said in a report that they had reviewed surveillance footage from the match and the banned fan didn’t appear to be yelling any slurs.

Following the investigation, that fan has been reinstated.