On Thursday, MU athletic director Jim Sterk formally apologized to South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley and offered to pay $50,000 to settle a defamation suit she had filed against him.
After a Jan. 28 basketball game in Columbia, South Carolina, Sterk accused Staley of promoting the unhealthy environment he claims players faced the day of the game. In an interview with KTGR, Sterk said South Carolina fans used racial slurs and spit on Missouri players.
Staley called the claims “serious and false” and sued for $75,000. After a review of the game, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said in a January press release that his department “received no confirmation of the alleged behavior directed at the visiting team by fans at the game.”
Sterk’s apology came in the form of a news release.
“Following a very spirited and intense game I attended in late January between the nationally ranked Missouri and South Carolina women’s basketball teams, I made comments in a local radio interview that were construed to suggest that Coach Staley promoted the negative experiences of racial epithets and spitting,” Sterk said in the release. “I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments.”
Staley accepted Sterk’s apology, along with the $50,000. Half of the money went to her nonprofit organization, INNERSOLE, which provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need.
“I’m glad we can share in support of this worthy cause,” Staley said in a release, “and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirit but positive competition amongst our programs.”
Missouri also released comments from Sterk regarding the alleged conduct of South Carolina fans that led to the original dispute.
“Those actions have no place at any sporting event, and I’m truly sorry that our student-athletes and staff had to endure that type of treatment,” Sterk said in the statement. “My concerns about those incidents continue.”
After serving as the athletic director at San Diego State, Sterk signed a seven-year contract with Missouri in August 2016.