The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina coaches Frye, Quarles, Staley discuss importance of Black History Month

Black History Month is especially significant to a trio of South Carolina coaches who have been setting a precedent for minority student-athletes and coaches at the university.

Head track and field coach Curtis Frye and assistant head coach Delethea Quarles have been at the university for a combined 50 years. In 1996, Frye became the first African American to be named a head coach at USC. Quarles joined the program two seasons later and the rest is history. 

The pair have combined to coach or oversee more than 500 NCAA All-Americans, 60 NCAA champions and 128 SEC champions.

"I think we all, as people, look for general comfort in places we go, whether it be workplace or different establishments. For me, it was important that there was a commitment to have people that look like me in leadership roles," Quarles said of her decision to come to South Carolina. 

When Quarels and Frye took over, they knew they were given an opportunity to build something that went beyond results on the track. 

"Being selected for an opportunity ... puts a tremendous amount of responsibility because you know it's bigger than yourself and it gives way and opportunity for other coaches that look like us to be here," Quarles said. 

Frye and Quarles are just two of the coaches from around the nation that have helped pave the way for Black coaches in all college sports, including head women's basketball coach Dawn Staley. 

Staley has risen to be a prominent figure in sports culture as her squad's athletic dominance has grown throughout her 13-season tenure. In October, Staley became the highest-paid Black coach in women's basketball after receiving a seven-year, $22.4 million contract extension. 

When it comes to Black History Month, Staley said that Black history should be acknowledged throughout the year, not just in February. 

"I'm not one that just overly celebrates it, because it's one month. I like to do it on a daily basis," Staley said.

Staley has more than 200,000 combined followers between Instagram and Twitter, platforms she uses her voice to amplify others with.

"I like to shine a light on especially Black people. They don't have a voice, they are ones that make less than a dollar than anyone else in society," Staley said.

Both teams have integrated ways to raise awareness for Black History Month into their respective sport. 

A tradition that Frye and Quarles started this season is awarding batons to athletes that win events at home meets. Each baton is inscribed with a quote or saying that describes the minority experience. 

"We had a shot putter win our first one. He was a white man from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and when he read the slogan it was a tearful moment for him," Frye said. 

One thing Staley did was give each Black head women's basketball coach a piece of her 2017 National Champions net at the start of the 2021 season. Staley's team also invited members of the University of South Carolina Center for Civil Rights History and Research to hold an exhibit in Colonial Life Arena for its game against Alabama. 

"I just try to be on the ground every day, just bring awareness to all the inequities in the color of your skin, because there's a lot of them," Staley said.

The passion that drives Quarles and Frye to continually support their athletes is the same passion Staley has seemingly made habitual with her community engagement through the use of her platform. 

"You live your passion and you try to live right and do the right things, but you do what's right for the people that you're coaching and serving," Quarles said. 


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