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Friday, January 28, 2022

Emails show Stricklin acknowledged Newbauer abuse

Mother of former player Corey Staples shared concerns about program’s toxic environment in 2019

Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, photographed during Florida’s football game against Alabama on Sept. 18, received several emails from a player’s mother further detailing the abuse of women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer early in 2019.
Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, photographed during Florida’s football game against Alabama on Sept. 18, received several emails from a player’s mother further detailing the abuse of women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer early in 2019.

A Florida women’s basketball player once wondered if she should slam the ball down in the middle of a game, walk off the court, turn to head coach Cam Newbauer and say:

No more.

That player ran through the scenario with B.B. Staples, the mother of former Gators player Corey Staples. 

Would that get Athletic Director Scott Stricklin’s attention?

“My response was, I have no idea,” B.B Staples wrote in an email to Stricklin. “Because truthfully at this point I don’t know what it is going to take for you to truly consider this as something real and dangerous.”

Staples sent five emails to Stricklin and Executive Associate Athletics Director Lynda Tealer between January and March 2019 about the toxic culture within the women’s basketball program. Her daughter played for Florida through the 2017-2019 seasons.

Several former players detailed a toxic environment under Newbauer, which included verbal abuse, racist comments and throwing basketballs at players. Stricklin took responsibility for Newbauer’s behavior a day after The Alligator’s Sept. 27 report.

In the statement, Stricklin said he received reports about Newbauer’s behavior during his first two seasons. He said the reports stopped after UF responded by “putting more structure” around the coach.

The reports did not come to a halt, however. 

Newbauer hasn’t responded to seven requests for comment through phone calls, texts and voicemails. University Athletic Association spokesperson Steve McClain forwarded statements Stricklin made Sept. 27 and 28.

“I no longer can watch and sit silent because if something happens to ANY of these girls the blood will be on my hands and that makes me no better than the other adults that watch out of fear,” B.B. wrote in the first email, sent Jan. 1, 2019.

She asked Stricklin to protect the student-athletes from the toxic environment and compared the situation to domestic violence. 

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Newbauer scolded her daughter for not standing and cheering on the team. Corey had torn her left ACL Oct. 3, 2017, the first day of practice. He told Corey, who was a preferred walk-on, that he brought her on to change the culture and threatened to kick her off the team.

“Excuse me!!! What? She was in pain,” B.B. wrote. “She was depressed, she lost 15 pounds and she wasn’t cheering enough for him?”

She wrote that Newbauer told the team he was untouchable. She likened the situation to that of Maryland football coach D.J. Durkin, who was in charge when offensive lineman Jordan McNair died following a heat stroke during football workouts. 

Corey qualified for a medical redshirt year, and Florida listed her on the official roster as a redshirt junior in the 2018-2019 season. 

But Newbauer didn’t. He told her he considered her a senior and it would be her last season with the program. 

Corey emailed her eligibility coordinator, Daniel Siegel, to appeal for another year. Newbauer found out about the email and humiliated her during a practice. 

“HE IS THE CULTURE and it is VERY TOXIC,” B.B. wrote. “YOU have given him free reign to run our girls and their confidence into the ground.”

B.B. detailed an incident where an international player walked off the court two hours before a game due to Newbauer’s screaming. Assistant coaches and players looked for her. Newbauer yelled at the team and said the player left because of them. 

“NO she left because of HIM,” she wrote. “Now I ask you. What if she had been distraught enough to walk out in traffic? She is thousands of miles away from home and no one cares. NO ONE.”

She urged Stricklin to take action, reminding him that the players were also people’s daughters.

“Now the blood is no longer on my hands if something happens to one of these girls and nothing is done about it,” she wrote. “Now it is on yours.”

Stricklin emailed B.B. back a day later. His response looked similar to the one he sent Sydney Morang’s parents when they shared concerns about Newbauer in 2018.

“I wanted to let you know that I received your note and appreciate you reaching out,” he wrote. “I understand that this was difficult for you to do. Please know that I take your concerns seriously and will assess where we can improve for the benefit of our student-athletes.”

B.B. wrote another email to Stricklin and Tealer Jan. 25, 2019, after she saw a Facebook comment claiming parents and two players on the 2017-2018 team sent letters to Stricklin detailing Newbauer’s abuse. 

She told Stricklin about the time Newbauer hurled basketballs toward players. One of them hit her daughter’s injured knee. 

A source close to UF’s investigation told ESPN they found no evidence Newbauer threw basketballs at players. Corey however, said Newbauer showed no remorse when he threw the basketball that hit her injured knee.

“They didn’t even try to investigate it,” she said. “All of our practices are recorded, and so we’re not just making that up.”

B.B. followed up Feb. 4, 2019, after Stricklin didn’t respond to her previous email. 

“How many young woman are you going to keep sending to him?” she wrote. “These parents are trusting OUR school and administrators to protect their children away from home.”

Stricklin returned her email two days later. 

“I am writing to confirm that I have received and considered your emails,” he wrote. “The experience of all Gator student athletes is important to me and everyone on our staff. This is reinforced by the myriad options students have to personally talk about their experiences or challenges with folks inside and outside of their particular sport...The goal is to be present and available for student athletes of all teams, women’s basketball included.”

B.B. wrote back the same day and told Stricklin he missed the point: Players are afraid of seeking help because of fear of retaliation. 

She added that some had gone to their advisers, counselors and trainers. In each case, the reports got back to Newbauer, and he humiliated them for it. 

In her first email, she wrote that Newbauer found out about the letter the Morangs sent to Stricklin and UF President Kent Fuchs. She said it wasn’t a coincidence that Sydney wasn’t allowed near the basketball facility or her teammates after medically retiring due to concussions.

“What you don’t seem to understand is when a person has been psychologically  and verbal abused enough, they don’t believe they have the right to protect themselves,” she wrote. “They believe they somehow caused this.”

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She sent a fourth email Feb. 12, 2019, to thank Stricklin and Tealer after he assigned Jay Jacobs, the executive associate athletics director for external affairs, to watch over Newbauer. 

“This man didn’t care about us, either,” Corey said. “There’s nothing that’s going to be changed here. They don’t care about us.”

Corey Staples remembered seeing a player walk out of a meeting with Jacobs and Newbauer crying right before a home game. Newbauer and Jacobs left the room seconds later, giggling and laughing. 

“He was there to be his buddy,” she said. “He was just eating our food and, you know, traveling with us and having a good time.”

B.B. thought Newbauer cleaned up his behavior during the time Jacobs overlooked the program. However, she then sent a final furious email to Stricklin, Tealer and Jacobs March 2, 2019.  

She wrote Newbauer shoved her daughter onto the court in a game versus Georgia Feb. 28, 2019. As a mother, she wrote it took everything in her to not jump onto the court and protect her child. 

“I am angry and embarrassed that this is the coach that you have offered up to these girls,” she said. “As a human, I am mortified that my daughter was treated like a pet.”

After the game, a women’s basketball booster approached B.B. The booster told her the way Newbauer spoke to Corey was bad but him shoving her was a new low. 

Boosters would sit behind the bench so they could hear how Newbauer spoke to his players.

Sharlene Byrd-Childs, who played for Florida through the 1982-1986 seasons, contacted Tealer regarding Newbauer Jan. 7, 2019. 

“On another note, I am a little disturb about Newbauer denigrating comments to his players in the presence of others - spectators, former Lady Gators( not only basketball),” she wrote.

At a game Byrd-Childs attended, Newbauer turned to the bench and yelled to his coaches after a player’s pass was deflected for a turnover. 

This is why I don’t play her!

Emer Nichols, who played at Florida through the 2018-2019 season, was frustrated by Stricklin’s statement after the abuse allegations went public. 

“One allegation, two allegations is enough and should be enough for them,” she said. 

Several players went to Stricklin about Newbauer, Nichols said. She said she was also transparent when Florida required players to fill out evaluations about the coaching staff, but they never called the team in to speak about what Newbauer did. 

In an email statement sent by McClain, Stricklin said if he had known about the depth of Newbauer’s behavior, he wouldn’t have extended Newbauer’s contract in June.

“I thought things were moving in a certain direction,” Stricklin said. “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.”

However, Nichols believes all of the assistant coaches under Newbauer were complicit, including now interim coach Kelly Rae Finley. 

Finley, Nichols said, tried to justify Newbauer’s behavior and attitude. Cydnee Kinslow, a former player on the 2020-2021 team, accused Finley of doing damage control for Newbauer. 

Finley and assistant coach Erika Lang-Montgomery confided in Nichols and other teammates and shared remorse for how they let Newbauer treat them, Nichols said. 

Corey Staples, however, feels conflicted about Finley’s role.

“I do think complicit is the best word to describe it,” she said. “I remember like practices and not even practices, just like when we’re around her, she would always justify what he’s doing.”

Current players don’t agree with former teammates. Guard Lavender Briggs accused Kinslow of making false accusations about Finley. 

“She’s speaking on things that aren’t even her experience, and if those players wanted to speak on those experiences, they would have, they still will, but I’m pretty sure they don’t, which is why they haven’t been spoken about,” Briggs said. 

However, Kinslow said she only spoke about her own experiences at Florida. 

“What I went through was 100% what I went through,” she said. “I wouldn’t put that on anyone else, and I would never wish that upon anybody.”

While at Florida, Nichols said she developed several health conditions that led to her being diagnosed with lupus, an auto-immune disorder that attacks the body’s tissues and organs. She believes the toxic environment under Newbauer caused her condition to arise. 

“It was very hard on me,” she said. “I was always very hard on myself because I never wanted to get yelled at.”

Since leaving the team, she hasn’t had a flare-up. 

The player with whom B.B. spoke to never slammed the ball down in the middle of a game, and Newbauer went on to coach two more seasons before resigning.

Contact Zachary Huber at zhuber@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.

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