Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The continued bitterness between the South Carolina Gamecocks and Missouri Tigers women's basketball teams is now involving the athletics directors of the two schools, with the Tigers' leader taking a shot at USC's fans and coach.
Last Sunday, USC and Missouri had a physical game at the Colonial Life Arena, punctuated by a brief dustup between the teams after a scramble for a jump ball. During the incident, there was shoving, and two Missouri players were ejected for walking onto the court.
The Gamecocks ultimately won the game 64-54.
But since then, there have been allegations made by Tigers fans and players that USC fans got into the hostility as well. Missouri Athletics Director Jim Sterk said in a radio interview with KTGR-FM Tuesday that he believes his players were mistreated by the home crowd.
"It wasn't a great atmosphere, it was kind of unhealthy if you will. We had players spit on, and called the n-words and things like that," Sterk said. "It was not a good environment and unfortunately I think [South Carolina] Coach [Dawn] Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere and it's unfortunate that she felt she had to do that."
TV cameras did not catch any of those remarks or actions, and there has been no cell phone video of the incident either.
USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner did not directly address Sterk's comments, or mention him by name, but issued a statement hours later disputing any such claim.
“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," Tanner said. "In anticipation of this rivalry game, the athletics department provided security for the Missouri basketball team, above its standard operating procedure. 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.”
Staley has so far not commented on Sterk's remarks. She will, however, talk to the media Wednesday afternoon, as part of a previously scheduled event to talk about her team's game against UConn Friday.