Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley says title game refs should 'not be run over' after critical NCAA review

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said she does not want a critical NCAA review of officiating in the women's national championship game last April to keep those officials from other prominent assignments, suggesting the Black women had been “thrown under the bus.”

The review found that the officiating during LSU's 102-85 victory over Iowa was below expectations.

Staley, whose team's 36-0 run was ended in the Final Four by tournament runner-up Iowa, said on social media she hoped the game officials would not be kept from similar games in the future.

“So the independent review was done under anonymity but it is known who the officials were …. all black and brown skinned women,” she posted on X, formerly called Twitter. “Now that they’re thrown under the bus let’s not run them over.”

When asked to discuss her post, Staley said in a text to The Associated Press her “tweet is all I'm going to say.” The sixth-ranked Gamecocks (1-0) face No. 12 Maryland (1-0) at home on Sunday.

The NCAA did not release its report, sharing only overall conclusions, and the officials were not publicly identified. The review was sped up by a year after criticism of the LSU-Iowa officiating, which Staley also addressed earlier this year.

Staley said on a podcast in May that she wasn't sure if the game's narrative was because it was “two Black officials or just because it was bad officiating, but I know what’s going to happen to those two officials ... I’ve got to look out for them too, because that’s the way it is."

Staley, a two-time national champion, has had a growing voice in supporting Black women in the coaching ranks as well as her own players. Twice last season — after a win over UConn and after the loss to Iowa — she defended her team's style of play against what she felt were comments that suggested the Gamecocks were thugs.

“So don’t judge us by the color of our skin. Judge us by how we approach the game," she said in April.

Before her team's trip to Paris to start this season, Staley asked organizers to seek a prominent Black female coach to be the opponent. Notre Dame and coach Niele Ivey took on South Carolina in the opener, with the Gamecocks winning 100-71 on Monday.

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