Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

SC head coach Dawn Staley makes history in Women’s March Madness championship game

Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

Head Coach Dawn Staley and the South Carolina women’s basketball team made history on Sunday afternoon after becoming the 2024 NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament champions. 

The Gamecocks went undefeated all season, and Dawn Staley is the first Black Division I head coach, in men’s or women’s college basketball, to lead their team to the championship undefeated. Staley, who has served as head coach for the Gamecocks since 2008, also became the first Black D1 head coach to reach three national titles. 

South Carolina finished their season 38-0, becoming the 10th team in women’s collegiate basketball to have an undefeated season. Prior to the championship, Baylor University, University of Connecticut, University of Tennessee, and University of Texas were the only programs to complete the challenging task. South Carolina is the 10th team since six teams from UConn have gone undefeated in their respective seasons.

In one of her celebratory speeches post-championship, Staley took the time to thank University of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark for the work she has done for women’s basketball. 

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport,” Staley said post-game. “She carried a heavy load for our sport, and it just isn’t gonna stop here on the collegiate tour, but when she’s the number one pick in the WNBA draft she’s going to lift that league up as well.”

“So Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there you are one of the GOATS of our game and we appreciate you,” Staley continued. 

Clark is currently projected as the No. 1 pick of the 2024 WNBA Draft, while last Monday, star South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso also declared for the draft.

“Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey so far,” Cardoso wrote in her Instagram post. “I am excited for what the future holds and can’t wait to see where this next chapter takes me.”

Cardoso, who moved by herself to the United States from Brazil at the age of 15, started her collegiate basketball career at Syracuse University. She transferred to South Carolina after the 2020-21 season, and has formed an ever-lasting bond with Coach Staley.

“She means a lot to me. I feel like since the first day I got to South Carolina she was working so hard to get me ready and prepare me for moments like this,” Cardoso said in a press conference after the championship game. “I’m just so thankful to have her as a coach. She’s like an inspiration for me and for a lot of young girls out there … She’s the best in the business.”

This year, Staley also won her third consecutive Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year, her fourth time winning in five years. 

“To be undefeated, to win awards like this—so unexpected,” Staley said. “I welcome it. There are plenty of times where I think we should have won a national championship, but we didn’t. This is somewhat of a repayment when you get stuff that you really don’t expect to get.”

Staley was also honored with The Associated Press women’s college basketball Coach of the Year award for the second time, her first being in 2020. She received 27 votes out of the total 35-member national media panel.

“I don’t coach to win awards, I really don’t,” Staley said in a press conference. “I’m very, very satisfied with just being there for my players … I’m forever indebted to basketball for what it’s given to me.”

The 2024 NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball championship game brought in 18.87 million viewers, the most for any women’s college basketball game in history. This number marked an 89 percent increase in viewership from year to year, as well as the first time the women’s final had a larger viewership than the men’s final.

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About the Contributor
Rylie Burns
Rylie Burns, Layout Editor & Assistant Sports Editor
Rylie Burns (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from Danvers, MA, and currently serves as the layout editor for the Berkeley Beacon. Rylie wrote for her high school newspaper and served as editor-in-chief of the yearbook. She is also an active participant in WEBN both on and off the camera. Other than reporting, Rylie enjoys dancing, choreographing, reading, and looking at pictures of her goldendoodle, Brodie.

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