COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Monday, South Carolina women’s basketball eyes its 80th consecutive regular-season home game with at least 10,000 fans in the stands. A remarkable community achievement, which would mean a great deal to head coach Dawn Staley.
“They’ll always have a special place in my heart,” Staley said about the fans, known as FAMs.
When Staley first arrived in 2008, she never pictured a large tightknit fanbase. Her focus was on creating a champion.
“It wasn’t in the script that I wrote when I came here,” Staley remarked. “It was about... making it a prominent program. I use to go to football games, ten to twelve years ago, I’d see 80-thousand people there. Never would I have imagined that this place (Colonial Life Arena) is sold out, or over ten-thousand fans here for 80 consecutive home games.”
Staley has built an absolute powerhouse program in Columbia. Since 2014, South Carolina has captured four SEC regular-season titles and tournament titles. The Gamecocks have made two trips to the Final Four. And, they won the 2017 National Championship.
Along the way, Staley created a family atmosphere around the women’s program.
“I watch our FAMs on social media, they want to know the dates of our schedule next year so they can budget their time off,” Staley said. “That’s incredible. The fans wrote the script in terms of coming in and supporting.”
Staley, now in her 12th season, has the Gamecocks in prime position to bring more titles home to Columbia. South Carolina currently ranks No. 1 in the latest AP Poll with a record of 24-1. While it might be tempting to dream big at this stage of the season, Staley wants to ‘shield’ her team from the outside noise that could distract the squad from fulfilling its potential.
“We want to make sure our circle stays tight,” added Staley. “As far as the record, the winning, the standings, we don’t mention it. We want to take care of Vandy and then let the chips fall where they may.”
Top-ranked South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt, Monday, at 7 PM.