After welcoming a record crowd to Provo, Utah on Friday, BYU’s athletic department is indefinably eliminating its popular student section for women’s volleyball games.
The decision comes on the heels of Duke’s Rachel Richardson alleging that she heard a racial slur coming from the BYU student section during a match against the Cougars at Smith Fieldhouse.
The incident has led to one unidentified adult male being banned from the arena. The man, who was part of a record crowd (5,507 in attendance) is described as a “non-student” in the school’s statement on the alleged incident. Nobody, including a courtside police officer, has come forward to back Richardson’s allegations of a slur being directed toward her or any of her teammates.
BYU hosts a four-team Nike Invitational volleyball tournament this weekend. The school has canceled its ‘Roar of Cougars’ student section at Fieldhouse. BYU kicks off the Invitational against Utah State Thursday night. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will also play in the tournament.
BYU’s student section has been under a microscope all week after Richardson stated that a “white male” yelled the N-word at her from the specified area.
A spokesperson on behalf of BYU commented that eliminating the student section is indefinite.
“Exact protocol for that space moving forward beyond this weekend is still under review,” said Jon McBride, as reported by Deseret News.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe spoke with Richardson on Saturday morning and alerted her that action would be taken against the alleged act, including the student-section ban going into effect this weekend.
Additional reporting from OutKick and The Cougar Chronicle — a student-led, on-campus paper at BYU — has noted that one man was escorted out of the game. The man was described as potentially having “Asperger’s or autism,” according to a courtside police officer.
BYU’s move to eliminate the section seemingly puts the onus back on its students to answer for the racist allegations against the non-student heckler. It will also take away any advantage that BYU had on the court created by the enthusiastic fans.
BYU police are conducting an investigation into the incident.
A police report obtained by OutKick’s Dan Zaksheske revealed that the man was escorted out for interfering during the game by heckling but at no point shouted the N-word.
“During the game and while I was standing on the sideline between the Duke players and the ROC section, I didn’t hear or observe any inappropriate comments or language from the ROC section,” noted BYU Det. Sgt. Laursen in a police report.
“During the second set, when the comment was reported to having been made, (he) was not present when the player was serving,” Laursen added. “On her second time serving during the set, (he) was on his phone and didn’t appear to be paying attention to the game.”
Holmoe banned the fan from attending all on-campus sporting activities following the incident.
The Cougars defeated Duke, 3-1, in Friday’s match.
OutKick reached out for comment from BYU’s spokesperson and did not receive a response.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela