CLEMSON — The South Carolina women's basketball team finally got its invitation to the White House to celebrate its national championship, but the Gamecocks will not be attending.
Not a political issue, it is instead a scheduling conflict, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said in a statement Thursday night. The White House is holding NCAA Champions Day on Friday, an opportunity for President Donald Trump to host various collegiate teams from across the country that won titles in their respective sports outside of football and men's basketball. Those two teams are given their own individual days.
"We did hear from the White House about attending (Friday's event), but we will not be able to attend. As I've been saying since our practices for this season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead," Staley said. "The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament."
The Gamecocks won the national championship in April, after they knocked off Stanford in the Final Four, then took down SEC foe Mississippi State in the championship game after the Bulldogs beat perennial champ UConn in epic fashion.
Staley said Thursday night the Gamecocks had practice Friday — one they would use to correct what she dubbed a disappointing performance against Clemson despite USC rolling past the Tigers 66-36.
"I've got practice tomorrow," Staley said after the game. "Practice tomorrow. Work on the discipline."
USC also hosts Wofford at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Staley was all for going to the White House in the weeks after the title game, saying she would leave it up to her players if they wanted to go or not but that she was definitely going. "That's what champions do," she said then. "They visit the White House."
The invitation never arrived. Staley wondered publicly where it was as other teams were invited -- or dis-invited, as NBA champion Golden State was after star Stephen Curry and Trump locked horns -- before the Gamecocks were.
She declared as practice started and again at SEC Media Days that she was no longer interested in the invite, as USC was beginning the season. Other SEC coaches who had been on White House trips supported her, saying the lack of an invite was an insult.