“I’m Going to Disney World!’’ South Carolina Coach Has a Ball Celebrating National Championship at Walt Disney World Resort 

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As a revered player and coach with three national championships, Dawn Staley has easily conquered the college basketball world. But Saturday, she had her sights set on two other kingdoms, one of which was an entirely different, well, animal. Literally.

Settled into her seat with her eyes forward and the look of anticipation written all over her face, Staley set off on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, oohing and ahhing at some of the 30 species of animals running wild on the African savanna, especially Cora the baby elephant.

It was the Disney park she said she couldn’t miss, and the first stop on her celebratory visit to Walt Disney World Resort — the payoff after she made that iconic proclamation that so many legendary athletes have made following a major sports championship. She’s going to Disney World!

Staley made that announcement during a post-game TV interview on ESPN after her University of South Carolina women’s basketball team’s fairytale ride to the national title earlier this month, the culmination of their historic undefeated season.

Her day at Walt Disney World was the perfect way to pay tribute to her team’s extraordinary collegiate championship, which catapulted Staley to the upper stratosphere of college basketball coaches. We put together a magical day for her filled with experiences on signature Disney attractions, interactions with beloved Disney characters, and all-around a day of non-stop fun. The highlight was joining her South Carolina coaching staff and Minnie Mouse in a colorful parade down Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom Park featuring bright streamers, fireworks, festive music, and so much more. Minnie even wore her very own basketball uniform just for this occasion.

So, Staley now stands amongst the biggest names in sports who have celebrated their greatest sports achievements at a Disney park by shouting that famous line “I’m Going to Disney World!’’ It’s a Disney tradition that we started back in 1987 when the New York Giants won the Super Bowl and now has become woven into the fabric of American sports.

“I actually secretly wanted to win [the national championship] because I got to say it, and I got to say it in front of over 18 million people where I was going, ‘I’m going to Walt Disney World,’’’ Staley said after the parade. “And now that I’m here, I’m enjoying it.’’

When her Walt Disney World visit was all done, Staley left The Most Magical Place on Earth with a heart full of memories that will forever be a part of her storybook career. And she left with a promise — she would be back.

“I will bring my family members back. I will bring my team back. I’m going to come experience this because this is smiles, happiness. It’s the best place to be.’’

See ya real soon, Coach!