After a game marred by both benches clearing and two Missouri women's basketball players being ejected, the Missouri athletic director is blaming South Carolina coach Dawn Staley for promoting a hostile atmosphere in which he says his players were "spit on and called the N-word" by fans.
Jim Sterk made the comments Tuesday on KTGR radio in Columbia, Mo., calling the atmosphere at South Carolina's Colonial Life Arena the toughest environment he's ever seen in a women's game.
"It was really kind of unhealthy, if you will. We had, you know, players spit on and called the 'N-word,' and things like that," he told host Matt Michaels. "I mean it was not a good environment and unfortunately I think, Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere, and it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that."
The No. 6 Gamecocks, the reigning national champions, outlasted the No. 15 Tigers 64-54, but not before an on-court scuffle that resulted in two Mizzou players ejected for leaving the bench in the first half.
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said Tuesday night that his department investigated the claims and did not find any incidents of the behavior Sterk described.
Tanner issued a statement published by The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
“The commitment to a secure environment for everyone at our home games, including fans, student-athletes, coaches and staff from the home and visiting teams is of the utmost importance. In anticipation of this rivalry game, the athletics department provided security for the Missouri basketball team, above its standard operating procedure,” he said.
“Upon hearing the accusations regarding our crowd’s behavior towards the Missouri team, the athletics department conducted a review of our operations from the game, including interviews with staff and security personnel. In this review, we received no confirmation of the alleged behavior directed at the visiting team by fans at the game.”