The Dawn Staley statue is on its way to Columbia. Here’s what we know

Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

The statue honoring South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley is on its way to Columbia.

The 11-foot, 1,000-pound likeness of the Gamecocks’ national champion coach is en route from Australia, the Columbia mayor’s office told The State. Staley, her staff and Mayor Daniel Rickenmann have reviewed and approved its design.

Exactly where the statue will be permanently displayed is still being determined. The city’s public works team is surveying the downtown-Main Street area for a spot that’s level enough to install the statue, which is scheduled to arrive by the end of July. Its unveiling will be planned once it’s delivered.

The project was first announced in February 2023. It’s projected cost was $140,000, funded by Statues for Equality (which aims to “balance gender and racial representation in public statues” around the world) and local business people. The city was approached by Statues for Equality, Rickenmann told The State last year, and put in a bid for funding a statue of Staley.

The group provided an $80,000 grant for the project, which is why it was not done by a local artist, the mayor’s office told The State this week.

“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 in 2023. “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.”

This news comes after Staley’s most impressive season in her 16-year tenure with USC women’s basketball. In addition to completing the first undefeated season (38-0) in program history and bringing a third national championship home to Columbia, she earned her second unanimous and fourth overall national coach of the year honor in 2024.

Staley’s statue will be the second in Columbia honoring a USC women’s basketball star.

In January 2021, the university unveiled outside of Colonial Life Arena 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. Wilson has since won two WNBA championships, a WNBA Finals MVP award, two league MVP awards and two Defensive Player of the Year awards with the Las Vegas Aces. Her first book “Dear Black Girls” released this year and made the New York Times Best Seller list.

Only 6% of statues in the United States depict women, according to UW-La Crosse art professor Sierra Rooney, and even fewer depict Black women. By the end of the year, Columbia could be home to two such statues.

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