Missouri women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton responded to allegations of fan misconduct at South Carolina this past Sunday by saying both fanbases needed to do better and not explicitly accusing Gamecock fans.
Her boss wasn’t so diplomatic.
Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk came after USC and head women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley in a radio interview Tuesday evening, accusing Gamecock fans of using racial slurs and spitting on Tiger players and Staley of encouraging the environment in which it took place during the two programs’ game on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena.
“It wasn’t a great atmosphere. It was really kind of unhealthy, if you will,” Sterk said of the game while on KTGR. “We had players spit on and called the N-word and things like that.
“It was not a good environment, and unfortunately I think Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere, and it’s unfortunate she felt she had to do that. It wasn’t good. I was really, really proud of our team. I thought they did a good job of handling themselves in a difficult situation and competing at a high level. It was too bad, but they have some talent and we got a tougher team coming in Thursday, so we have to move on.”
When asked if it was the most hostile environment he had ever experienced, Sterk said it ranked high on his list.
“Probably on a women’s level, yes, I thought it was,” he said.
Sterk’s comments came at roughly the same time that USC AD Ray Tanner issued a statement Tuesday night saying that his department had investigated the claims and received no confirmed reports of such behavior, which was first described on social media.
“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,” Tanner said in his statement. “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.”