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Geno Auriemma addresses ‘asinine’ interpretation of ref comments

(David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Geno Auriemma clarified his comments Wednesday on the physical play in UConn’s 81-77 loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday.

The UConn coach had criticized the refereeing after the game, saying “what teams do” to Lou Lopez Sénéchal is “appalling” and “not basketball anymore.” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley took issue with Auriemma’s characterization of her team’s defense on her call-in radio show Tuesday.

“They play the right way and approach it the right way whether they win or lose,” Staley said of her players. “We don’t denounce anybody’s play. They are always uplifting the game of women’s basketball, and when we were getting our heads beat in by UConn for all those years, I said nothing.”

“We’ve been called so many things and I’m sick of it,” Staley added. “I’m sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings the game has ever had.”

After UConn’s 59-52 defeat to Marquette on Wednesday night — marking the Huskies’ first consecutive losses since 1993 — Auriemma said his comments had been directed at the referees, not Staley’s team.

“I don’t know whether Dawn was referring to me specifically or whether this has been happening to her team for quite some time now,” Auriemma said. “If people have been paying attention seriously, I’ve been making that statement for 20 some years, since Diana [Taurasi] was playing for us. And I said the exact same thing after the Villanova game, the exact same thing after — anybody that was paying attention, ask Holly Rowe what I said at halftime of the Tennessee game. I said it after the Providence game. And in each one of those instances, everything I said was directed squarely at the officials.”

Staley said she addressed the off-court dialogue with her team because she felt that it was a narrative that “could hurt us in the future.”

“I think if we have to play them again, that’s out there. And I just want people to know that this is us.  This is how we play,” Staley said. “Everybody’s got to pivot at some point, but don’t bring people down in the process. Again, I have never said one derogatory word about UConn or anybody that’s beat us over the years.”

In response, Auriemma cited his own track record with criticizing officiating and said he doesn’t want that to be misinterpreted.

“You have a right to coach your team any way you want. I have enough trouble coaching my own team. But I can have a say in how officials call the game,” Auriemma said. “And if rules are supposed to be the rules as they’re interpreted to me, then they’ve got to be called according to the rules. If I’m never allowed to question an official about their calls and criticize them for the way they officiate a game without someone thinking I’m casting [aspersions] toward their team, that’s just asinine. And if you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been saying it for 20 years.”

The UConn and South Carolina rivalry has only escalated since the Gamecocks beat the Huskies in the 2022 national championship game. Sunday’s game between the teams drew 1.087 million viewers on FOX, making it the most-viewed women’s basketball game ever on the network.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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