Dawn Staley has come to the defense of the ‘black and brown skinned women’ who officiated the women’s college basketball championship last spring – and some fans aren’t happy.
After LSU defeated Iowa in the final last April, the NCAA reviewed the game’s dubious officiating and found that the performance was in fact lower than previous years.
Staley took to X to respond to the results of the review, and said she did not want it to keep those officials from other prominent assignments 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 wrote. Now that they’re thrown under the bus let’s not run them over.’
However, some fans accused Staley of ‘race baiting’ and insisted the officials’ performances was the only important factor.
‘What’s their race have to do with it? I only care about the bottom line performance,’ one said on X. ‘[The] refs absolutely sucked in that Iowa LSU game and it’s a good thing that they reviewed it and made it public.’
South Carolina college basketball head coach Dawn Staley attends a practice this year
According to the review, mistakes made included a foul on LSU’s Angel Reese (above)
‘When all else fails pull the race card…,’ another added.
A different fan said, ‘I would think as a coach in a sport fighting for [notoriety], in a year where people finally cared, you would be horrified by the pathetic showing of those refs. You cannot honestly say you thought their “effort” wasn’t horrific. Drove many prospective new fans of the game away.’
However, others agreed with the point Staley was trying to make.
‘The very fact that they are Women of Color is the point,’ one said. ‘They may never get a chance to ref at this or any level again. If the refs were white there wouldn’t be a review. It baffles me that they can’t see beyond their entitlement. Keep speaking Truth to Power Coach Staley!’
Another added, ‘Right and they acting like 3% [drop in refereeing performance] is huge…. Most don’t even leave that as a tip lol,’ one said.
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.’
Nonetheless, NCAA vice president for women´s basketball Lynn Holzman said the officials were graded on the accuracy of their calls and the overall accuracy number fell short.
‘In the championship game itself, for example, we typically have a performance that I think is 91% historically,’ she said. ‘In that game, the percentage of correct calls was below that, around 88%. That´s factually the case.’
The NCAA did not provide the review or details to the AP, but an independent review of LSU-Iowa done by an official who did not participate in the game found the percentage of correct calls was much lower than 88%. (Out-of-bounds violations were not included as part of the independent analysis; it was unclear if they are included in the NCAA figure.)
Staley, seen coaching vs. Notre Dame, has been a strong voice in supporting black coaches
According to the independent review, mistakes made during the game included a foul on Reese at the end of the first quarter that was her second of the game. In the third quarter, two offensive fouls were missed, one on each teams.
Both resulted in video monitor reviews but neither ended up in penalizing the offensive player, said the official, who did the review for AP only on condition of anonymity because they feared the criticism could impact their career.
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.