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Friday, June 14, 2024

Coach Dawn Staley: Our Head HBCU Advocate

Dawn Staley’s squad has achieved an unparalleled level of dominance in women’s basketball. The unbeaten team has proven to overcome every obstacle in its path.

The Gamecocks have won an astounding 109 games and lost just three in three seasons. Their latest victory at the NCAA national championships in Cleveland, Ohio was a testament to the indomitable spirit and hard work that defines this team.

This third national title under Staley’s leadership inspires all aspiring athletes and coaches and cements her as one of the greatest coaches in women’s college basketball history.

“…it’s a heavy load to be undefeated, to finish the job.”

The magnitude of the moment seemed to dawn on Staley as the confetti rained down on her team after another successful season, breaking down in tears as her championship-winning squad celebrated reaching the mountain top yet again.

Staley celebrates winning her third national title. – Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Moreover, on and off the court, Staley has been a consistent advocate for others, including HBCUs. As we celebrate Dawn Staley’s historic championship win, we take a look back on 5 times Staley stepped for HBCUs.

Coach Staley On Playing HBCU Teams

In December 2023, while speaking at a postgame news conference after South Carolina’s 104-38 victory at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, Staley discussed why she regularly schedules teams from the MEAC, a smaller Division I conference made up of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. For Staley, the reasons were deeply personal, based on her history and previous coaching experience.

“When I was at Temple, we couldn’t get a top team to play us besides Rutgers and Tennessee,” Staley said. “Those were the only two coaches who really gave us an opportunity. It hurt them more than it hurt us. We were an up-and-coming program. We could challenge you. We could challenge the top teams in the country. It didn’t make sense for them, so a lot of them said ‘No.’

“But I’ll always remember what coach Vivian Stringer and coach Pat Summitt did for us and giving us an opportunity to measure ourselves against some of the best, most legendary coaches. It allowed me to grow as a coach. It allowed our program to grow at Temple University. It’s scary, too. I always try to schedule people who are elevating or trying to elevate their program and move their program in the right direction.”

Coach Staley On Jackson State Women’s Basketball Team

Jackson State’s success gained national attention earlier this year after the team earned a vote in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 women’s basketball poll for the first time in program history.

In addition to drawing the attention of at least one pollster, the on-court exploits of the team have earned it at least one very notable supporter. Dawn Staley, the head coach of the undefeated and No.1 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks, took time to acknowledge the Tigers.

Coach Staley replied to a post on X from JSU head coach Tomekia Reed that celebrated the Tigers’ first-ever AP vote, writing, “You’d have another vote if I was a voter! Keep doing the BELIEVABLE!”

Coach Staley On Uplifting Her Former Players Heading to HBCUs

Last month while Dawn Staley was gearing up for South Carolina to head back to the Final Four, she took the time to shoutout one of her former players who just took a coaching gig at an HBCU.

The basketball icon had some kind words to say about one of her former South Carolina students, Olivia Gaines, taking over as head coach at Allen University. “Olivia Gaines has built a resume that would allow her to coach anywhere in the country,” Staley said when asked about her protegeé.

“Her choice to come back to South Carolina and Allen University makes this a special union. I’m excited to see her back in Columbia, and I can’t wait to see her program thrive.”

Coach Stanley On Supporting Women’s HBCU Basketball

Norfolk State head coach Larry Vickers Jr. talked about meeting Staley for himself as the two teams had dinner the night before their NCAA Tournament game. Dawn Staley came into the Norfolk State locker room following the game to talk to the team and was very complimentary of the team. 

“I didn’t understand the magnitude around her before I really personally met her. Then you’re like, Oh, OK I see why you’re the figurehead for women’s basketball. She does an excellent job, makes everybody feel loved and comfortable,” Vickers said during MEAC media day. “ They took us to Ruth’s Chris. South Carolina paid for our meal the night before.”

The meal at the swanky steakhouse cost a pretty penny, but Staley took care of the bill.

Coach Staley On Visually Representing HBCUs

During last year’s March Madness, Coach Dawn Staley wasn’t sporting garnet and black on the sideline of the Gamecocks’ second-round March Madness game against South Florida. Instead, she donned a white and blue No. 44 Cheyney University jersey.

Cheyney, the nation’s oldest HBCU, is located roughly 30 miles from Staley’s hometown of Philadelphia. Its women’s basketball team became the first — and only — HBCU to reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in 1982, ultimately falling to Louisiana Tech in the national championship game.

“For them to be led by Coach Stringer, who opened doors that now I walk through, it was truly an honor to wear this jersey and to represent them,” Staley said.

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