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PROVO — The BYU women's basketball program was contracted to receive a six-figure lump sum after a home-and-home series was canceled nearly two months before the first game was scheduled to tip off, but the South Carolina women's basketball team disputes that number.
The program led by first-year head coach Amber Whiting was contracted to receive $100,000 from South Carolina after the defending national champions opted to cancel its two-game series, according to a copy of the two-game contract obtained by KSL.com via public records request. The first game of the series was originally scheduled for Nov. 7 in Columbia, South Carolina, but was canceled following allegations of racial heckling during a BYU women's volleyball match against Duke.
The series, which was agreed to on May 24 and amended to include the final cancellation clause three days later and signed by South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, also included a return game in Provo set for an undisclosed "mutually agreed upon date" in 2023.
The initial contract called for a $25,000 cancellation fee, with no guaranteed compensation for the visiting team in each home game other than a limited number of tickets.
But in an amended contract dated May 27 obtained by KSL.com, a new cancellation clause called for the breaching party to pay the nonbreaching party $100,000 in the event of a cancellation within 90 days of the effective termination date, unless the cancellation was mutually agreed upon.
Staley, a two-time NCAA champion and two-time Naismith Trophy coach of the year, agreed to a new seven-year salary worth $22.8 million in April that reaches as high as $3.5 million annually in the final year in 2028, according to records obtained by The State in South Carolina.
After the series cancellation, BYU scheduled the season opener Nov. 8 at Colorado State. The Cougars' home opener is Nov. 12 against Montana State, three days before welcoming Oklahoma to the Marriott Center.
"My girls were really looking forward to that game," first-year BYU coach Amber Whiting told BYUtv in introducing a schedule that also includes Washington State and Troy in Hawaii, and Utah on Dec. 10. "But I just talked to them about controlling the controllables. We just have to stay in the minute; it doesn't matter who we play. We have to go out there and fight as if we were going against South Carolina.
"I know it's not what they wanted. But that's OK. We'll be fine."
South Carolina disputed the buyout in an email to KSL.com, saying that there was never a "fully executed contract" for the game. But the Gamecocks announced Aug. 26 that they would be playing BYU in the home opener as part of the 2022-23 season schedule before opting to "change (the) opponent for the home opener" Sept. 2.
Multiple attempts to follow-up with the university by KSL.com were not returned.
Staley said she made the decision to cancel the series after the two-time NCAA Tournament champ told the Associated Press that she vetted every angle of the situation and spoke with several people about the alleged incident during the volleyball match.
"I slept on it a few nights," Staley said prior to NASCAR's Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina, where she was the honorary pace car driver. "I woke up with the same gut feeling I should not put our players in that situation."
The incident involves a 19-year-old Duke sophomore and the Blue Devils' only Black starter alleging she was racially heckled and called a slur by a BYU fan during the Cougars' match during the doTerra Invitational. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and women's volleyball coach Heather Olmstead both apologized to the player, and BYU has since made changes to its fan code of conduct as well as restricting student seating behind the service line on one side of the court at the Smith Fieldhouse in response to the allegations.
The university also indefinitely banned a fan that Duke singled out as having used the slur from all on-campus athletic events, but rescinded the ban when the university's self-run investigation could not find evidence of the alleged slur.
"Despite being unable to find supporting evidence of racial slurs in the many recordings and interviews, we hope that all those involved will understand our sincere efforts to ensure that all student-athletes competing at BYU feel safe," a BYU statement read, in part. "As stated by Athletics Director Tom Holmoe, BYU and BYU Athletics are committed to zero-tolerance of racism, and we strive to provide a positive experience for everyone who attends our athletic events, including student-athletes, coaches and fans, where they are valued and respected."
A group of South Carolina lawmakers known as the South Carolina Freedom Caucus is using the power of the state legislature and open records to seek clarification about the canceled series, according to WPDE News in South Carolina.
In a letter sent to the public to the state, the caucus called the decision to cancel the series "an ill-advised overreaction."
"Dawn Staley found it upon herself and Ray Tanner to inject themselves into this when no evidence existed that it happened," said RJ May, a state representative and vice chairman of the caucus.
Staley said she didn't discuss the cancellation with her players, but that athletic director Ray Tanner — the Gamecocks' former baseball coach who has been in his current role since 2012 — was supportive of the decision.
The former six-time WNBA all-star has spoken often about her role as a social activist, especially when it comes to racial incidents and speaking out against racism in America. Staley often spoke up in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement and other anti-racism efforts in 2020, and often encouraged players, fans and others to stand against injustice with her.
"It's not just about X'ing and O'ing," Staley told The Athletic in 2021. "It's about teaching, growing, learning and being that example for our players, because we can't have sports blinders on.
"There's a world going on outside of us that we play a part in — whether or not people want us to shut up and dribble. There's a world out there that, between these dribbles, things are happening that impact us."
The decision to cancel the two-game series with BYU was in line with her own personal principles.
"This was a selfish decision," Staley said. "I was only thinking about South Carolina women's basketball.
"I just wanted to make sure our players didn't have to endure that," she added. "Because if something happened of that manner (as the incident involving Duke), I don't have the words to comfort them."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with South Carolina's response to the game series contract between the university and BYU.