‘We failed,’ Florida Gators AD says of women’s basketball abuse scandal

Scott Stricklin explains some of what UF knew and did regarding accusations of abuse against then-coach Cameron Newbauer.
Former Florida Gators women's basketball coach Cameron Newbauer was accused of creating a toxic environment in his program.
Former Florida Gators women's basketball coach Cameron Newbauer was accused of creating a toxic environment in his program. [ RICHARD SHIRO | AP (2019) ]
Published Sept. 28, 2021|Updated Sept. 28, 2021

Florida Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin said Tuesday that he takes responsibility for how he and his department handled allegations of abuse against now-former women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer.

In an interview with a handful of reporters, Stricklin shed some light on what UF knew and did about allegations that Newbauer threw balls at players, degraded them and made discriminatory remarks about Black players, as reported Monday by The Independent Florida Alligator.

“We as a department have a responsibility to provide our student-athletes leadership for their particular programs, their sports,” Stricklin said. “(We’re) going to provide them the best atmosphere possible, and we failed in this situation. And ultimately that’s my responsibility for the culture of this department. I’ll take responsibility for that.”

Stricklin said UF heard reports about behavior that “was a little concerning from a cultural standpoint” during Newbauer’s first season, 2017-18. Though complaints are common during coaching transitions, Stricklin grew more concerned when the reports continued into Year Two.

“We kept having it, and we realized we need to address this,” Stricklin said.

Stricklin said he had “really direct conversations” with Newbauer about the program’s culture. The Gators put more support structure around him and started having a senior administrator attend more practices and games (home and away). Not long after that, Stricklin said, the reports of misconduct stopped, and UF administrators didn’t notice anything improper.

Stricklin saw on-court progress and believed Newbauer’s conduct was improving, which is why UF gave the coach a contract extension in the spring.

“Cam is building his program the right way and making steady progress,” Stricklin said when the extension was announced. “It’s important that he have the time needed to continue that progress.”

Newbauer’s initial deal had one year left, but UF extended it through April 2025. His reworked contract, however, also made it easier for UF to fire him without cause. Instead of owing him $330,000 for every year left on his deal, the Gators would only owe him one year’s salary ($283,250).

Regardless, it’s a deal Stricklin said he regrets making.

“Subsequent to the contract extension, a situation occurred that was obvious that Cam was still having an issue on the treatment part of people,” Stricklin said. “And so we sat down, told him what his options were, and he chose to resign.”

In July, UF announced that Newbauer was resigning for “personal reasons.”

Stricklin did not elaborate on what changed between March and July, but said that if he had known about the issues in the spring, UF would not have given the coach an extension.

“I thought things were moving in a certain direction. Obviously we weren’t,” Stricklin said. “We didn’t pick up signs and clues, and we’ve got to figure out going forward how to get better at that and make sure we know what’s going on.”

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The Independent Florida Alligator detailed multiple, on-the-record complaints about Newbauer’s actions. According to the student paper, he once told Black players that “he liked their hair but wouldn’t touch it because he knew he wasn’t supposed to do so.” The story also described players fearing their coach and struggling with their mental health.

“It was so toxic and unsafe,” one player told the paper. “Everyone was so scared that no one wanted to speak up.”

Newbauer went 46-71 in his four seasons at UF. Kelly Rae Finley is serving as the program’s interim coach.

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