Published Feb 2023
University of South Carolina women’s basketball Coach Dawn Staley will be honored with a statue in downtown Columbia. Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann told The State the city plans to erect a statue at the corner of Main and Gervais streets across from the S.C. State House, “so that everyone who comes through Columbia can see that, and it can be a reminder to everyone that opportunity is what you make of it, and nobody can stand in your way.” A design for the statue is still in the works, and an unveiling could be about a year away.
“It’s going to be a reminder to every young girl that, ‘I have the ability and I have an equal value, and nobody should forget about that,’” Rickenmann said. The statue is being created in partnership with international arts funding group Statues for Equality, a group that aims to “balance gender and racial representation in public statues” around the world.
Staley, the mayor said, has been an ambassador for leveling the playing field for girls and women in sports, pushing for equal funding, attention and respect as men’s sports. She and the university have already been consulted on the statue, and a rendering is in the works, the mayor’s office said. Rickenmann expects about a 12-month timeline to complete the statue once the design is finalized. The project is expected to cost $140,000, with half of the funding coming from Statues for Equality and half committed by local business people, the mayor’s office said.
“What the (USC women’s basketball) team has done is not only show excellent grace, at the same time, they’ve stood up for trying to level the playing field in sports,” Rickenmann said. “I’m excited that we have a coach who has really embraced our community and at the same time has really empowered her athletes to stand up tall every day.” In 14 years coaching the Gamecocks, Staley has brought home two national championship trophies and vaulted the team into the perennial national spotlight. Among her myriad accomplishments, Staley has been named the national coach of the year three times and is USC’s all-time winningest basketball coach — men’s or women’s. “Coach Staley is a fantastic ambassador for the university, the city and for women’s basketball,” USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner said in a statement. “Through her leadership and tenacity on and off the court, she exemplifies what it means to be a Gamecock. This planned statue would hopefully inspire excellence in generations to come.”
The city was approached by Statues for Equality, Rickenmann said, and put in a bid for funding for a statue of Staley. “We’re going to be working with the coach on the right pictures and pose, and the artist will be providing us with the renderings,” the mayor said. The Staley statue will be the second structure honoring a USC women’s basketball star in the capital city. In January 2021, USC unveiled an 11-foot bronze statue of Gamecock great A’ja Wilson, a Columbia native who helped lead the team to its first national championship in 2017. Also an Olympic gold medalist, Wilson has gone on to star in the WNBA with the Las Vegas Aces, bringing home the league championship and her second WNBA MVP trophy last season.