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Sunday, February 05, 2023
<p>UF head coach Amanda Butler looks on during Florida's 84-75 loss to Ole Miss on Feb. 6, 2017, in the O'Connell Center.&nbsp;</p>

UF head coach Amanda Butler looks on during Florida's 84-75 loss to Ole Miss on Feb. 6, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. 

I had been planning a column calling on UF athletics director Scott Stricklin to fire women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler for weeks. I was waiting until after the season ended — presumably with an early exit in the SEC Tournament — to write it. It was actually supposed to run in place of this column, but then it didn't need to.

“After 10 years, University of Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler will not return next season,” read the press release posted on FloridaGators.com.

Stricklin’s decision wasn’t surprising given Butler’s history. In 10 years at the helm of the program, Butler’s teams had a tendency to fluctuate from halfway decent to poor from season to season, and this season was one of the worst of all.

The Gators finished 15-16, missing any form of postseason play. While this wasn’t the worst record achieved under Butler’s watch, it was especially disappointing given the team went 22-9 the season before.

Much of the drop off can be attributed to the loss of two key players: guards Simone Westbrook and Eleanna Christinaki.

Westbrook tore her ACL before the season and left the Gators with a thin bench. Christinaki, meanwhile, transferred to Maryland. The team said the reason was that she refused to accept a half-game suspension for a “violation of team culture,” with Butler saying that she “abandoned” her teammates.

Westbrook’s injury obviously can’t be blamed on Butler, and Christinaki’s departure probably can’t be (at least in full), either. It was a bad situation for sure, but she's not the first coach to face injuries. The fact remains that Butler produced a losing record at a place where losing records are unacceptable.

Looking at UF’s women’s basketball program compared to its other programs, the only comparable ones are the men's and women's cross country teams. Like the women's basketball team, neither were ranked in their sport’s most recent poll — contrary to every other Gators team — and cross country coach Paul Spangler has been at UF half as long as Butler.

Butler’s time at UF as a whole didn’t produce much success either, with just four of her 10 teams making the NCAA Tournament and none of them making it past the second round. And in SEC play, the Gators never finished higher than fourth in the standings under Butler.

The program just wasn’t relevant on a national stage, with the highest ranking achieved in Butler’s 10 years being No. 9 back in 2008-09. And after that season, the Gators weren’t ranked again at all until the 2015-16 season.

In short, it was time for this to happen. It’s actually surprising that it took this long, even if some of the team’s players were understandably upset by the loss of the only coach they've known since high school.

“Speechless…” junior forward Haley Lorenzen wrote on Twitter. “words cannot describe this feeling right now”

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Emotions from players aside, the team’s relative mediocrity over 10 years was more than reason enough to doom Butler. So good for Scott Stricklin — who, while AD at Mississippi State, hired wildly successful women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer — for doing what needed to be done.

Ethan Bauer is the sports editor. His columns appear on Wednesdays. Contact him at ebauer@alligator.org, and follow him on Twitter @ebaueri.

Where all UF’s teams ranked in most recent polls:

Baseball: No. 5

Men’s basketball: No. 20

Women’s basketball: unranked

Men’s cross country: unranked

Women’s cross country: unranked

Football: No. 14

Men’s golf: No. 7

Women’s golf: No. 6

Gymnastics: No. 4

Lacrosse: No. 3

Soccer: No. 7

Softball: No. 2

Men’s swimming and diving: No. 5

Women’s swimming and diving: No. 19

Men’s tennis: No. 16

Women’s tennis: No. 1

Men’s track and field: No. 3

Women’s track and field: No. 9

Volleyball: No. 11

UF head coach Amanda Butler looks on during Florida's 84-75 loss to Ole Miss on Feb. 6, 2017, in the O'Connell Center. 

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