Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin is taking responsibility for the toxic environment Cam Newbuaer created during his time as the head coach of the women’s basketball team.
Meeting with four members of the media, Stricklin provided some details and a rough timeline of what transpired during Newbauer’s tenure. He also revealed how the University Athletic Association responded and why the coach was given a three-year contract extension in February despite so many red flags, according to ESPN.
“We, as a department, have a responsibility to provide our student-athletes leadership for their particular programs, their sports,” Stricklin said. “They’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. It’s incumbent upon us going forward to make sure — not just in women’s basketball but in all our sports — we have the right leadership, creating the right culture in those sports.”
The move comes after The Independent Florida Alligator reported on allegations of abuse by several former players and some of their parents on Monday. Players said Newbuaer would make racist remarks and belittle player and staff. The abuse was even physical at times, with Newbuaer throwing basketballs at players.
“In Cam’s first year and a half, two years, we had some reported behavior that was a little concerning from a cultural standpoint,” Stricklin said. “Anytime you have a coaching transition, it’s not unusual for there to be some kids who aren’t happy with the direction. Early on, it was trying to figure out what are we looking at here.”
According to ESPN, Stricklin responded by “putting a lot more structure around” Newbauer and sending a senior staff member in to monitor the coach and his program, which seemed to work for a while.
“The incidents reported to us ceased,” Stricklin said. “We stopped getting those reports. That combined with just our own personal observation was that things were getting better, right? He had made the adjustments.”
During Newbauer’s tenure, the Gators went 46-71 — the worst winning percentage for a Florida Gators coach during their first four years in history. With one year left on his deal, Stricklin extended him to allow him to better recruit.
However the problems persisted, as Newbauer was involved in another situation, according to Stricklin, making it clear he was “still having an issue on the treatment part of people. And so we sat down, told him what his options were, and he chose to resign.”
Moving forward, Kelly Rae Finley will serve as interim head coach until the university hires a permanent replacement.
Stricklin added that he’ll continue to deal with the regret he feels over keeping Newbauer as long as he did.
“Had I been aware of everything… when we made the contract extension, I never would have done the contract extension,” Stricklin said. “I thought things were moving in a certain direction. Obviously, we weren’t. 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.”