LOS ANGELES — The University of Southern California’s athletic department issued a public apology on Sunday via Twitter for “an offensive chant” that it says emanated from its student cheering section during Saturday night’s 35-31 loss to BYU at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The chants were audible several times on ESPN’s national broadcast of the game, the first meeting between the schools since BYU defeated USC 30-27 in overtime in 2019.
Several BYU fans who attended the game told the Deseret News that on at least five occasions, the students chanted derogatory slurs directed at members of the faith that sponsors the university, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The offensive chant from our student section directed towards BYU during the football game last night does not align with our Trojan values. It was distasteful and we apologize to the BYU program,” read the statement from @USC_Athletics on Twitter.
Ironically, BYU coach Kalani Sitake praised both fan bases after the game, saying “fans on both sides were great” and that it was an “honor and a privilege” for BYU to play against a storied program in the nearly 100-year-old Coliseum.
It was not clear whether Sitake knew about the offensive chants and curse words directed at “Mormons,” a nickname given to members of the church.
Ushers told the Deseret News that there were as many BYU fans as USC fans, if not more, at the regular-season finale for the 10-2 Cougars and the second-to-last game of the season for the 4-7 Trojans.
Announced attendance was 55,926.
“We had a lot of fans here. We have a lot of players from Southern California and we obviously have a lot of fans out here, too,” Sitake said.
“We are just happy they were able to be here and I am glad we got the win for them. Our players love playing for these fans in Cougar Nation, and it was a lot of fun to see them cheer and be happy. We like making our fans happy.”
USC’s starting quarterback, Jaxson Dart, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as is Trojans’ defensive line coach Vic So’oto, who offered “sincere apologies” to Sitake, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and the football program as well on Twitter.
“I did not hear the chant but I know it does not reflect the Trojan family that I’ve come to know and love,” So’oto wrote.
So’oto, who is from Southern California, played tight end, linebacker and defensive end for the Cougars from 2005-10 under coach Bronco Mendenhall.