The University of Pacific women’s volleyball team has forfeited its West Coast Conference match at No. 18 BYU on Thursday because of concerns by some of its players about a claim that racial slurs were aimed at a Black player from Duke during a match in August.
“The volleyball team has decided to not play the Nov. 10 game at Brigham Young University. The team expressed concerns following reports of racist and hostile comments during an Aug. 26 match. Pacific stands with our student-athletes,” said Mike Klocke, Pacific’s senior director of media communications, in an emailed statement.
A statement from BYU Athletics said Pacific did not work with BYU to address the players’ concerns.
“The University of the Pacific’s decision to forfeit this week’s women’s volleyball match is unwarranted and deeply disappointing,” the BYU statement said. “Following the Aug. 26 allegation, BYU conducted an extensive review and found no evidence to corroborate this allegation. As we have stated previously, BYU will not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe in our athletic environments. It is unfortunate that Pacific would make a decision that perpetuates the very challenge we are working to heal in our polarized society.”
The forfeit was first revealed on a schedule on the WCC website. The match also was removed from the team’s schedule on Pacific’s website on Monday.
“The West Coast Conference has been notified by the University of the Pacific of the volleyball program’s decision not to compete in the Nov. 10 match against Brigham Young University as part of the WCC regular season schedule,” the conference said in a statement. “The conference has had regular communication with each institution since becoming aware of this intention and understands the sensitivities with both programs. The WCC continues to encourage civility and respect for everyone involved or impacted with this decision.”
The WCC said conference officials will not make any further comment.
After BYU released the results of its investigation of the Duke match, conference officials released a statement that said they believed BYU had “conducted a transparent and thorough investigation. BYU’s inability to locate perpetrator(s) does not mean the remarks were not said.”
The statement said BYU officials appropriately responded to the allegations during the Aug. 26 match and that “BYU has adopted appropriate measures and policies to help avoid future incidents.”
Pacific is the second school to refuse to play a BYU team since Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who is Black, said that she heard racial slurs when Duke played before a sellout crowd in the Smith Fieldhouse at BYU on Aug. 26.
A BYU investigation, which included interviews of fans and extensive reviews of television and cellphone audio and video recordings, found no evidence to support Richardson’s statement. Although they have supported Richardson, no Duke players or staff have said they heard the slurs.
Richardson said she heard slurs when she served in front of a student section at one end of the court near her teammates and an associate Duke athletic director. BYU temporarily removed the student section from the service area during its investigation. That section remains closed.
The Tigers last played at BYU on Sept. 23, 2021. BYU won, 3-0. Pacific did not publicly report any concerns about its visit.
Pacific athletic director Janet Lucas informed BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe about the team’s decision on Friday.
“BYU continues to provide one of the best environments in college volleyball,” the BYU Athletics statement said. “The most storied programs in volleyball, both women’s and men’s, have competed for decades on our campus and expressed appreciation for their experience at BYU. We have hosted the NCAA Women’s Tournament for the past seven years in a row.
“We recognize the real challenges of racism in our society, and we reiterate our strong belief that the solution is to work together in addressing these issues and not to separate from one another. We regret that Pacific elected not to work with us in addressing their concerns.”
The WCC schedule called for Pacific to play BYU in the team’s annual WCC matchup at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Pacific recorded its first-ever conference win over BYU on Oct. 15. The 3-2 victory was a major upset, as the Tigers beat then 12th-ranked BYU in Stockton, California.
The University of South Carolina canceled two women’s basketball games with BYU, one this fall and one next year, because of Richardson’s statement. The teams had been scheduled to tip off their seasons today in a game at South Carolina. Instead, South Carolina will host East Tennessee State tonight, and BYU will play its season opener on Tuesday at Colorado State.
The latest cancellation is surprising because BYU and Pacific have been conference partners for 10 years. BYU joined the WCC in 2011 and Pacific became a member in 2013. However, Thursday’s scheduled match was to be the final regular season conference match between the teams, because BYU will leave the WCC after this school year to join the Big 12.
With the forfeit, BYU improves to 19-5, 12-2, and Pacific falls to 13-13, 5-9. Pacific plays next at San Diego. BYU will host Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
Pacific’s statement did not refer to other scheduled games with BYU.
Pacific’s women’s basketball team is scheduled to play a WCC game at BYU on Dec. 29. The schools’ men’s basketball teams have a conference game set for Feb. 4 in Provo. And Pacific is scheduled to play a three-game baseball series at BYU from May 12-14.