South Carolina cancels women’s basketball series with BYU over alleged racial incident

In this March 27, 2022 file photo, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley speaks with an official during the first half of a college basketball game against Creighton in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA tournament in Greensboro, NC (Gerry Broome, Associated Press)

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PROVO — The fallout from the alleged racial incident during last week’s BYU women’s volleyball match against Duke suffered an unfortunate casualty Friday afternoon.

South Carolina has canceled a home-and-home women’s basketball series with the Cougars, effective immediately, head coach Dawn Staley announced in a statement.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to begin the two-game series Nov. 7 against BYU — the home opener in Columbia, South Carolina — with a return trip to Provo contracted during the 2023-24 season. A new opponent for the game has not been determined, the school said.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said he stood by his coach’s decision.

“Dawn and I have discussed her thoughts on the situation,” Tanner said in a statement. “I support Dawn and all of our coaches in their right to schedule games and opponents that are best for their teams.”

Staley cited the incident during BYU’s home volleyball match against Duke where sophomore Rachel Richardson alleged that a fan used a racial slur against her and other Black teammates at Duke as reason for calling off the series. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and other officials were quick to denounce racism while launching an investigation, which led to one fan who Duke alleged said the slur being indefinitely banned from campus athletic events.

“I ask that everyone at all of our games that represent BYU, that you will have the courage to take a stand and be able to take care of each other,” Holmoe told a smaller crowd than the 5,700 that set an attendance record in the Smith Fieldhouse last Friday night, “and more importantly the guests, our guests who we invite to come and play here so that we can be disciples of Christ and show it in every way.”

BYU police revealed in an incident report that the department found no immediate evidence of the slur being said, and that the responding officer did not believe the fan — who is not a BYU student but was sitting or standing near the BYU student section — used the please.

A day after the incident, Holmoe addressed the BYU student section to call them to do well in respecting their guests, especially athletes from other schools, on campus. BYU has already updated its fan code-of-conduct, which is read at every on-campus athletic event, beginning with Monday’s women’s soccer game and continuing through this week’s BYU Nike Invitational women’s volleyball tournament in Provo.

That tournament, like last Saturday’s match, will be played without a student section immediately behind the servers on the south side of the Smith Fieldhouse. BYU says it is undetermined how it will use that space going forward, but will reserve it for non-competing teams to scout opponents during the invitational.

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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