SEC Fines Missouri AD $25,000 Over Dawn Staley Comments

It all centers about comments made in the wake of the Missouri-South Carolina game January 28 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC.

The Southeastern Conference is fining Missouri Athletics Director Jim Sterk $25,000 for comments he made about South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley last month.

They also announced a reprimand of the leader of the the Tigers' sports programs, and asked for a review of game management and visiting team security at USC.

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The decision comes hours after Staley sued Sterk for defamation and libel.

This all centers around remarks Sterk made in the wake of the Missouri-South Carolina game January 28 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC.

The game was contentious between fans and players. After the game, some Missouri players said they'd been mistreated by Gamecock fans.

In a radio interview with KTGR days later, Sterk said that he believed Staley created an atmosphere that led to his players being verbally assaulted by USC fans after the game. Specifically, Sterk said Gamecock fans spit on his players, and used the n-word at them.

In response, Staley, said the claims weren't true.

"The accusations are serious and false and they will be handled in a matter reflective of those facts," Staley told reporters at the time. 'They're going to be handled in the right manner."

In levying a reprimand and fine, the SEC determined that Sterk’s public comments Staley during a January 30 radio interview violated SEC Bylaw 10.5.1, which states “Coaches and administrators shall refrain from public criticism of other member institutions, their staff or players.”

Related Coverage: USC's Dawn Staley Says Accusations About Her are 'Serious, False'

South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner also said he investigated, and found no evidence of what Sterk claimed. He said he thought an apology might be necessary.

Later, Sterk held another radio interview, where he refused to backtrack the statement.

Related Coverage: Missouri AD Says He's 'Said His Piece' About Dawn Staley

In the lawsuit, Staley's lawyers says Sterk's comments, "false, defamatory, reckless, and made with actual malice in that [Sterk] knew that his statement was false and still made it with a reckless disregard for the truth."

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The lawsuit says Staley has suffered damage to her reputation, and is asking for actual, compensatory, and punitive damages for a total of $75,000.

Following their win against LSU, News 19 asked Dawn Staley if she had anything to add to the lawsuit. Her response, "No, no. We're moving forward and all the other questions can be referred to my attorney."

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey issued this statement after announcing the fine against Sterk.

“Both Missouri and South Carolina have cultivated highly successful women’s basketball programs, which enjoy tremendous fan support and have earned the respect of this office,” said Commissioner Sankey. “While we always appreciate a healthy level of competitive intensity on the court, there is no place in this league for discord inside or outside of the arena. I have had multiple conversations over the past few weeks with representatives of both schools about the problems emanating from their January 28 game and it has been my desire for those issues to be mutually resolved between the athletic programs and individuals involved. Unfortunately, a mutual resolution does not appear imminent. Our hope is that we can direct our focus back where it belongs – on our student-athletes and on-court competition.”

Missouri's Chancellor, Alexander Cartwright, and President Mun Choi issued a joint statement: "We remain confident in University of Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk. Since he came here in August 2016, Jim has exhibited a passion for our student athletes and their success and safety both on and off the court. He has proven himself to be an excellent administrator."

Tanner also issued a statement of his own late Thursday to the SEC's actions.

"I welcome the review from the Southeastern Conference into our game management procedures and visiting team security. Our staff works diligently to create a secure environment for everyone at our home athletic events, including fans, student-athletes, coaches and staff for both the home and visiting teams. I will reiterate that we did a post-game review following the January 28 game against Missouri and received no confirmation of the alleged behavior by our fans directed towards the visiting team."

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Dawn Staley Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Jim Sterk by WLTX on Scribd