Missouri AD Jim Sterk apologizes to Dawn Staley after settlement reached

The Missouri athletic director who faulted Dawn Staley for allegedly promoting a hostile and racist atmosphere during a game in January has apologized to the South Carolina women's basketball coach.

Jim Sterk offered the apology Thursday after a defamation lawsuit filed by Staley was settled between the sides.

That settlement and apology came more than three months after Sterk went on KTGR radio following a Jan. 28 game in Columbia, South Carolina, and criticized Staley for what he alleged happened during the showdown between top-25 SEC programs.

"It wasn't a great atmosphere. It was really kind of unhealthy if you will," Sterk said then. "We had players spit on and called the N-word and things like that. It was not a good environment. And unfortunately I think Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere, and it's unfortunate that she felt she had to do that."

On Thursday, Sterk said what he alleged at the time was wrong.

"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," said Sterk, who ultimately was fined $25,000 by the SEC. "I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments."

The defamation suit, filed in February, was settled for $50,000 on Thursday. One half of that will go to Staley's INNERSOLE not-for-profit organization, and the other will go toward her attorney fees.

Missouri will pay the settlement because Sterk "made his comments in good faith while performing his duties as a university employee."

"The money is a non-issue, but glad we got a settlement," Staley told WIS News 10. "This was about my reputation and what I've built over my career and also just being my mother's child. I am a child in which, my mother raised me properly. If anything synonymous with anything that's negative, if it's seen in that light, it's a direct relation to what she's done in raising me and raising her four other kids, so I'm extremely happy."

She added in a statement: "I accept his apology and I appreciate the contribution of $25,000 to INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization I co-founded that provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need. I'm glad we can share in support of this worthy cause and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs."

Sterk was previously fined $25,000 by the SEC, which also said it would conduct an investigation into game management at South Carolina.