A headline was found in such bad taste by Gamecock fans that The State newspaper had to apologize and was rebuffed by the university for what it saw as an inadequate attempt to make amends.
After USC fell 34-14 against Missouri on Saturday, the Columbia-based daily published a story on Sunday focused on quarterback Ryan Hilinski’s performance under the six-column headline “Hilinski hope sinks.”
Hilinski’s Hope is a charity started in memory of Tyler Hilinski, Ryan’s brother, who played for Washington State University and took his own life. The organization seeks to destigmatize mental illness among college athletes and is well supported by USC and its fans.
After the headline printed, The State received hundreds of critical tweets and comments on social media. In response, the newspaper issued an apology, claiming the reference to the charity was unintentional: “Our sincerest apologies to the Hilinski family today for the unfortunate headline in our print edition today. ... Although the connection between the headline and the foundation was unintentional, there is no excuse for such poor wording and we have reached out to the family and university to express our regrets.”
The apology did little to ease public concerns, with the university joining the chorus of discontent in a statement released Sunday evening.
“We were appalled to see this morning’s headline in The State newspaper that seemed cavalier about the seriousness of the mental health issue,” said the statement, which was signed by President Bob Caslen, Athletics Director Ray Tanner and head football coach Will Muschamp. “It demonstrated a level of unprofessional and irresponsible journalism, and we find it unacceptable that the major daily newspaper in the hometown of our University would use such a headline in their game story. We don’t believe their apology is enough.
“We urge The State to be a leader in advocating and destigmatizing mental illness by making a very public effort to help fund and provide educational awareness to this very real problem.”
For information on Hilinksi’s Hope and how to contribute, visit hilinskishope.org.