Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk accused South Carolina fans of spitting and using racial slurs toward the players on the Tigers women's basketball team, and Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley offered a response Wednesday.
"The accusations are serious and false, and they will be handled in the manner reflective of those facts," Staley said, per ESPN.com. "Our fans are great. They're loyal. They're passionate. They understand basketball. They understand how to act in the stands. If I could uproot them and put them in every women's basketball arena, every coach that represents that particular fan base would be tremendously proud of what they bring to the table."
She continued, making it clear she stood with the fanbase amid the accusations: "I stand by our fans. I stand by what they represent. I stand by how they cheer. I stand by every single thing that they bring to the building because it's appropriate and well within game rules."
Sterk specifically called out Staley during his comments following Sunday's game, saying she "promoted" the atmosphere that led to the spitting and racial epithets.
"Yeah, it wasn't a great atmosphere. It was really kind of unhealthy, if you will," he said on the KTGR Big Show on Tuesday. "We had, you know, players spit on, and called 'the n-word,' and things like that. I mean it was not a good environment, and unfortunately, I think, you know, Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere, and it's unfortunate that she felt she had to do that."
Sterk wasn't the only one to make such accusations. Former Missouri player Sierra Michaelis was in attendance and tweeted about the fans spitting on players:
However, the ESPN report noted South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said the department conducted a review and found no evidence of the spitting incident.
"I do believe a retraction is necessary from Jim Sterk's comments," Tanner said, per ESPN.com. "I was very confused that Coach Staley was addressed from Jim Sterk's comments. I still don't quite understand exactly what the intent was."
South Carolina won the game 64-54, and two Missouri players were ejected in the tense SEC battle. Tyasha Harris (19 points) and A'ja Wilson (15 points and 15 rebounds) led the Gamecocks to victory.
South Carolina is 7-2 in the SEC, while Missouri is 5-3. Both teams are looking up at 8-0 Mississippi State.