Editor's note: This story includes sensitive language, allegations of verbal and physical abuse and attempted suicide.
The Florida Gators employed a coach facing accounts of physical, mental and racial abuse by his players for four years. Instead of taking action, the UF athletic department awarded that coach a contract extension this spring.
Months later and not long after the extension was announced, the coach was given the choice to resign as claims continued to pile up, and he did July 16. The story, in the university's eyes, was going away quietly.
Fast forward two months, and that would no longer remain the case.
A glaring report surfaced in September 2021, littered with abuse allegations from named and anonymous UF women's basketball players of the past and present levied toward former coach Cameron Newbauer. There were descriptions of physical and mental abuse, micro-aggressive racist comments, attempted suicide and other disturbing incidents.
The people in power within the Florida athletic association and the university officials themselves owe the athletes and the public further explanation. And as conducted on Sept. 28, a private press conference with athletic director Scott Stricklin—one in which The Alligator, the student outlet that penned the original report of abuse, was not invited—doesn't cut it.
Cydnee Kinslow moved back to Hawaii earlier this year after spending a graduate season with the Gators' women's basketball team. She had one more year of eligibility remaining but opted against it. She had had enough.
Kinslow, as well as her teammates, have been open about her experiences under Newbauer in interviews with The Alligator and ESPN. Stories included Newbauer's throwing basketballs at his players—including one who was injured—in frustration, making microaggressive comments toward his Black athletes, demanding players cover tattoos and change their personal attire, threatening to pull scholarships, screaming in player's faces in hopes of reactions and much more.
Kinslow had more instances to share while speaking with AllGators.
One of the accounts listed above happened the day Kinslow met Newbauer and now-interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley, who was then the assistant head coach, as the two picked Kinslow up at the airport following her transfer from Long Beach State.
During the car ride to campus, Newbauer suggested Kinslow cover a tattoo on her arm, as he had done with others. He was worried that his daughters would want to mimic Kinslow upon meeting her and get tattoos themselves.
A previously unreported story that Kinslow shared happened near the beginning of her UF career. Newbauer accused Kinslow, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and a teammate, who identifies as heterosexual, of being in a romantic relationship based upon their interactions on the court.
"[Newbauer] had actually called us into their office, sat us down in front of the entire staff, extended staff included, in the conference room with the TV behind us and started out the conversation saying, 'I don't know what you two were up to, but it's unacceptable on my team and I will not have it here ... You two can't date on my team,' " Kinslow remembered.
After accusing Kinslow and the teammate of dating, he offered his own version of proof on the television that Kinslow mentioned.
The first video Newbauer played, mocking a film review session, included footage of free throw attempts where the teammate nearly hit Kinslow with her elbow while adjusting her hair. She proceeded to apologize to Kinslow and placed her hand on Kinslow's shoulder while doing so. The second clip showed Kinslow and the teammate missing and retrying a high-five while subbing in and out of a game.
"I actually laughed out loud," Kinslow remarked. "I was like, 'There is no way this is happening right now to me. At this age, at this time of my life, there's no way.' "
But to Newbauer, Kinslow said, the matter was no joke. Without directly accusing Kinslow and her teammate of being in a relationship, Newbauer made his message loud and clear: A player could not date another player on his team, and it was wrong to give him even the slightest idea that it was a possibility.
"Those were the two clips that he felt were the justification for the two of us dating," Kinslow explained. "Despite the fact that, A) in a joking manner, she's not my type. B) she's not gay, so it's like, wow.
"It was actually very brutal for me, because I had experienced quite the backlash for my sexuality and how I identify myself and that stuff at my last school. [Newbauer and his staff] understood that before I even got there and still chose to do this little incident with the two of us."
This wasn't the first time that Newbauer apparently made remarks about the personal lives of his players, although accusing two players of being in a relationship was a new low. In the past, according to Kinslow, Newbauer spawned rumors of players involving themselves with the significant others of their teammates to create drama and turmoil.
Kinslow addressed Newbauer the next day about her situation specifically and made it clear that he had crossed a line. As a result, Newbauer avoided confrontation with Kinslow for a period of time.
While Kinslow was able to steer clear of Newbauer's harassment for a while, others were on the receiving end of his abuse. Kinslow shared that a teammate quit at halftime during an away game at South Carolina in December, while the Gators were losing 39–18.
At the time, Newbauer suggested his players weren't good enough to play for him, saying that if they were, they could play at Connecticut under legendary coach Geno Auriemma.
"[Newbauer] stood up at halftime and was like, 'You know, I don't know what you guys think this is,' and going off about Geno and UConn," Kinslow said. "And [the teammate] actually stood up and said 'Respectfully, f--- you and f--- Geno. Like, we are good enough.' "
Comments from Newbauer like these were common, but players rarely snapped back. Near the end of the regular season, Newbauer began to abuse Kinslow once again along with the rest of the team, but unlike in most cases, Kinslow stood her ground.
Kinslow missed the majority of her lone season at Florida due to a broken nose that led to a concussion, which impacted her speech. She said that Newbauer never checked in on her as she nursed the injury.
Being in the concussion protocol, Kinslow did not participate in practice and rehabbed outside of the team gym to avoid loud noises and echoes. As she inched closer to a return to play, Kinslow entered the gym after practice on one occasion and examined Newbauer, who was watching drills from a second-floor overview of the court, berating a teammate who had her back turned to the coach at the moment.
Kinslow advised her teammate to turn around and listen to Newbauer to avoid further confrontation and calm the coach down. Newbauer proceeded to turn his anger toward Kinslow, yelling: "Kinslow, I don't want to hear s--- come out of your mouth."
"That's the last time I try to help you with anything," Kinslow told herself at the time.
Newbauer made his way to the gym floor after his outburst and continued to lash out at his team, calling the players "worthless" and accusing Kinslow—who, besides entering the facility at the end of the workout, was not present for practice—of not being vocal in the team setting.
Kinslow addressed Newbauer then and there, reminding the coach that she did not participate in practice. She then pulled Finley aside for a discussion about Newbauer's aggression, which Newbauer interrupted by running over and getting in Kinslow's face to accuse her of talking about the coach behind his back, saying she didn't belong with the program for her actions.
Kinslow responded out of anger, yelling back in Newbauer's face for constantly disrespecting her and her teammates. Assistants were quick to pull Newbauer away and out of the room, but Newbauer continued to instigate, screaming "let her hit me" as he was dragged away from the scene. Kinslow did not threaten or attempt to lay a finger on Newbauer despite his pleas for her to do so.
The sequence of events unraveled with an outside audience observing every move. The Florida men's basketball team, according to Kinslow, was in the gym and witnessed the spectacle.
"They had said afterwards, joking around saying, 'Yeah, we saw the whole thing coming from the jump,' " Kinslow recalled. "'Like, we knew it was going to happen because the way it started when he walked in the gym.' "
As the Women's National Invitation Tournament approached, Kinslow rushed her rehabilitation progress as the team was low on players due to COVID-19 protocols. But as soon as UF reached the minimum number of players available to avoid a forfeit, Newbauer held a matter with his staff and made a demand.
"Do everything you can to make sure [Cydnee] doesn't come to this tournament," Newbauer said, according to Kinslow. He remained upset over their confrontation in the previous practice, which led him to kick Kinslow off the team temporarily.
Yet, Kinslow made the trip to Charlotte, N.C., in March for the first round of the WNIT. She took the court for the second time since mid-January and her first appearance since facing Missouri on Feb. 21, scoring a season-high five points while posting three rebounds and an assist. Florida defeated Charlotte 66–65 and advanced to the regional semifinals.
Despite her performance and the fact that he put Kinslow on the court for 21 minutes, Newbauer was livid that she was in attendance.
"After the game [Newbauer] held another meeting with his team, saying 'I told you guys about having Cydnee come on the tournament,' " Kinslow said. "I know one of the coaches had actually stood up for me and said, 'Well if it wasn't for Cydnee, we wouldn't have won this game,' and he said 'I don't care, I told you guys what to do.' "
Kinslow was quick to pack her bags and leave the university after the Gators were eliminated by Villanova in the next round of the WNIT.
"I still had another year of eligibility actually," Kinslow said, "and pretty much just came to the conclusion at the end of the season that it wasn't worth, you know, risking and losing myself and my mental health to play one more year."
One point that Kinslow made very clear in her conversation with AllGators was that Newbauer wasn't alone in harassing his team. In a very bad-cop, good-cop style, Finley played a part in the abuse as well.
"Every day she had to call a player, she had to go meet with a player for lunch to do something to try to sweep it under the rug," Kinslow said of Finley. "Like, when we got called up for the being gay and dating each other situation, 'Oh, he didn't mean it like that. How can you take it that [way]?' "
This was Finley's typical behavior, according to Kinslow. When a player would report wrongdoing by Newbauer, Finley would usually respond in an understanding tone but quickly flipped the conversation into a pity party for the head coach.
"It's hard to explain how she was with you. You'd be like, 'Kelly, I've had it,' and she'd be like, 'All right, I hear you, Cydnee. I get what you're saying and you're valid where you're at. But see, what you're not understanding is where Cam's coming from,' " Kinslow said. "Now, that is sick. I would rather somebody threaten me and just flat out this and that. She manipulated you."
Kinslow pointed to her heated argument in practice with Newbauer as another example of Finley's playing good cop, where the assistant coach attempted to buff the situation between the head coach and a player he was abusing.
Kinslow approached Finley after Newbauer interrupted their conversation, threatening to quit the team in the heat of the moment, to which Finley replied: "He doesn't mean it like that. He doesn't mean it when he says it like that. You know you're better than that. Don't let him make you quit. If you quit, you're not going to be worth anything."
Finley's reward for being Newbauer's right-hand woman was his job, at least for the upcoming season, after he departed from the program in July. That nauseated Kinslow, as she firmly believes Finley enabled Newbauer's behavior.
"The sickest part is that she is another female and allowed and watched two males abuse other women," Kinslow said. "That is so hard because women are supposed to stick up for other women in this world. And that woman absolutely made every one of us feel so invalid for how we felt.
"This is no different than when someone commits a crime," Kinslow said. "Cam robbed the bank but Kelly drove the car. She's just as guilty as he is."
The abuse and torment she suffered at the hands of Newbauer resulted in Kinslow's attempting suicide earlier this year, in the middle of Florida's season. And she was not the only one.
Kinslow had hinted at her own attempt in a TikTok video that went viral in July, the first domino to fall in Newbauer's actions coming to light. She confirmed the incident when speaking with AllGators and went into detail as to what led her to that moment in her life.
"You get to a point where you're like, 'I just cannot do this anymore. I feel like I'm failing everybody.' I got to this point," Kinslow recalled.
"I'm not performing where I want to perform. And especially for your performance, I'm hearing that I'm trash, that I don't deserve to be here. I feel like I'm letting my family down. I feel like I'm letting everybody that believed in me to this point down. And you're just like, there's just no point anymore."
The attempt only brought upon more pain as she was stuck in the exact same position that she was in before.
"It's sad because I had to wake up the next morning and go, 'All right, I'm on my way to practice,' you know?" Kinslow said. "Like, bummed it didn't work and bummed that I'm still here, but I have a job and nobody gave a s--- about it anyway, so, gotta go put my basketball shoes on and go to practice."
Kinslow also shared that she discovered an unnamed teammate attempting suicide at one point. Kinslow recalled breaking down the bathroom door and pulling her out of the shower in the midst of the effort.
Newbauer's ill-treatment of his players and these attempts of suicide reminded Kinslow and her teammates of the importance of their bond. While the team felt like it had no support from above, the group turned to one another in support to make it through the season.
"Teammate after teammate, I mean we talked and we cried, 'I cannot do this anymore,' " Kinslow said. "And you only have the people that are around you to tell you, 'Hey, keep going. Keep pushing for us because they may not value you, but we value you.' "
Newbauer stepped down from his post in July as descriptions of abuse continued to materialize, even after Florida had extended his contract. Stricklin said in hindsight that "things were getting better" as the athletic department established methods of monitoring his behavior.
That thought process ultimately led to Newbauer's contract extension, a deal that lasted less than four months before he stepped down.
Things never got better, though, at least in the eyes of Kinslow and her teammates.
At least one incident occurred in early July, mere weeks before Newbauer left the program. The team had returned to campus to begin summer workouts, and the coach didn't wait to begin raising tension and insult those around him.
Kinslow was not with the team at the time, but was informed of the occurrence.
"I know that there was some outright disrespect occurring and the strength coach, I know that [Newbauer] had said some out-of-line things to her," Kinslow recounted, "and he’d already had an exchange of words with Kelly prior that morning."
The collection of incidents that occurred that day pushed Finley to a breaking point. Kinslow shared that Finley threw her cup of coffee out of frustration and told Newbauer she planned to report his actions to UF administration. Shortly after the incident was reported, the university athletic association suspended Newbauer from team activities.
"It wasn't anything major. It wasn't like, 'Oh, you know, this was it,' " Kinslow said. "It was more of a stick that broke the camel's back. ... That's what made me mad and my parents furious. Like, how dare [Finley], now, at this time, let that be the reason why you're done?"
Considering how the timeline stacks up, it appears as though the final straw for Newbauer at UF may have been the threat of Florida's star player leaving the program as a result of the July incidents: Junior guard Lavender Briggs, Florida's leading scorer from the season before, entered the NCAA transfer portal July 14.
Two days after Briggs entered the portal, Newbauer was gone. Just over a week later, on July 27, it was reported that Briggs withdrew from the portal and returned to the team. Every eligible member of UF's 2020–21 roster returned for the upcoming season.
As this story continues to circulate nationally, Stricklin and Florida's university athletic association have kept a low profile—and yet, their actions have been seen and condemned across the country.
Stricklin and the UAA, first off, allowed Newbauer to resign and walk away from the program on his own, although these accusations create a strong case to have fired Newbauer with cause.
And, according to Kinslow—as well as an email exchange made public in The Alligator's report—Stricklin and the university were aware of Newbauer's behavior well before the coach withdrew from his position, but did nothing about it. Specifically, Stricklin knew about basketballs being thrown at players as well as the verbal abuse, as parents reached out to the athletic director to report Newbauer's demeaning comments.
"[Stricklin] swept everything under the rug because Cameron Newbauer was his first hire," said Kinslow.
However, intending to let the situation go away quietly, Stricklin would not speak about Newbauer's departure nor any of his accused wrongdoings until The Alligator dropped its report on Sept. 27.
Even though he was offered an opportunity to address the accusations by The Alligator, Stricklin provided no comment in the original story. It took a pressing request for a statement from AllGators before Stricklin would finally acknowledge the imputations, hours after the report surfaced.
Before his statement, Stricklin's most recent comments regarding Newbauer, from over the summer when the coach was extended and again when he resigned, included praise and well wishes.
“It is our responsibility to provide a championship experience with integrity, along with the necessary support, for Gators student-athletes and staff.
The culture of the women’s program under Head Coach Cam Newbauer described in The Independent Florida Alligator article is in no way consistent with the values of the University of Florida.
At times during Coach Newbauer’s tenure there were concerns brought to our attention. Each time, additional information was sought, and these concerns were addressed directly with Cam as we required corrective actions and outlined clear expectations of behavior moving forward. Additionally, the UAA provided enhanced administrative oversight and presence within the program and sought anonymous feedback directly from student-athletes and staff.
Ultimately, we did not see the required improvements, and following discussions with Coach Newbauer he made the decision to resign.” - Scott Stricklin on September 27
The statement left numerous ends untied.
To make matters worse, Stricklin would secretly meet with four select media members the day after responding to AllGators' request for a statement. AllGators and The Alligator were two of the media outlets that did not receive an invite.
Florida's athletic communications department received a handful of complaints regarding the private conference. The university responded to those complaints by offering the press two quotes from the meeting—with Stricklin, once again, avoiding the tough questions.
“We as a department have a responsibility to provide our student-athletes leadership for their particular programs, their sports. We are 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.
"Had I been aware of everything at the time he resigned that I when we made the contract extension, I never would have done the contract extension. 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.” - Scott Stricklin on September 28
This was the last time Stricklin spoke about Newbauer.
Kinslow's account of Newbauer's actions, the lack of urgency by the university to address the issues, Newbauer's 2021 contract extension and Stricklin's positive comments about Newbauer along the way are all troubling factors within this story.
This leaves the public, and certainly the athletes, with questions that have gone unanswered.
- Why did Stricklin avoid taking action as these accusations piled up?
- What had Newbauer done well enough to offset his actions and earn a contract extension (keep in mind, he led Florida to a 46–71 record during his tenure as coach)?
- Was Stricklin aware of two players attempting suicide?
- Why was Finley promoted to a position of power, considering her involvement?
- Why did Stricklin refuse to condemn Newbauer for abusing his players before he was forced to do so by the court of public opinion?
It's been nearly a month since The Alligator released its story, and, besides a forced statement and a private press conference, Stricklin has remained silent.
The athletes affected by Newbauer's actions deserve better, and they deserve answers.
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Photo: Cameron Newbauer; Credit: University of Florida athletic association