Florida basketball abuse is latest example of how women athletes are constantly betrayed by those expected to protect

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5 min read

Who, exactly, is protecting female athletes on college campuses? Anyone? 

If headlines from the last few months are any indication, there aren't many who are.

In April, USA Today revealed a rotten culture in the LSU athletics department, where many so-called adults knew that women on campus, including student-athletes, were victims of sexual assault and partner violence at the hands of members of the football team and no one did much of anything because winning football teams seemingly are valued over the safety and well-being of young women.

In June, The Athletic published a report detailing why players were leaving the Syracuse women's team in droves: Head coach Quentin Hillsman was allegedly verbally abusive and otherwise made them uncomfortable with his behavior. Current and former members of the team as well as parents reported the behavior to athletics administrators and got little-to-no support.

And on Monday, the Independent Florida Alligator had as its lead story, "Former Florida women's basketball players detail abuse under Coach Newbauer." A reported toxic culture of verbal abuse toward players, assistant coaches and trainers, throwing basketballs at players, and singling out Black players for their choice of apparel and having assistant coaches buy them clothes that he approved of, is laid out. Current and former members of the team as well as parents reported the treatment to athletics administrators and — just like Syracuse — got little to no support, according to the report.

Cameron Newbauer's behavior, as described in the Alligator story, is textbook abuser, in that he made pretty much everyone on and around the team afraid that things would get worse if they spoke up. Everyone was reportedly on eggshells around him, unsure what would trigger another explosion. According to the report, he'd berate a player, screaming in her face, at practice one day and then welcome her back the next, only to rehash it all in a team huddle and remind them they had to respect him.

Former Florida women's basketball head coach Cameron Newbauer reportedly fostered an abusive and toxic culture. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Former Florida women's basketball head coach Cameron Newbauer reportedly fostered an abusive and toxic culture. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hurling basketballs at players, even those who were injured, seemed to be a frequent tantrum for Newbauer. He reportedly once hit a player recovering from a torn ACL on her injured leg. The athletic trainers and strength-and-conditioning coach, people educated and licensed in their respective fields, did not escape his wrath. Players were advised to see therapists. At least one quit the team rather than continue being subjected to Newbauer's behavior, and another was said to have attempted suicide before ultimately leaving, according to the report.

And yet, Newbauer had the audacity of telling Black players that their tattoos and choice of clothing had to be covered up and changed because they might be a bad influence on his three daughters — and not his unhinged behavior, which they were present for at times.

In case you're not sure what "privilege" is, especially since that word is deliberately misconstrued with increasing frequency, look no further than these cases. To this point, no one at LSU has faced any real consequence for allowing football players to skate despite serious allegations that have now triggered two U.S. Department of Education investigations.

Hillsman was allowed to resign and Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack, who also reportedly turned a blind eye to domestic violence allegations and an arrest against men's lacrosse star Chase Scanlan, still has his job. 

And Newbauer, who quietly resigned from Florida in July citing "family reasons," received the same consideration. Florida admitted as much in a statement later Monday, acknowledging that it knew of "concerns" with Newbauer and increased oversight of the program.

How much increased oversight could there have been if Newbauer, with a 46-71 record and zero NCAA tournament appearances in his four seasons, received a contract extension from the school in June that was slated to pay him $500,000 per year — mere weeks before his resignation? Why did Florida go along with the lie that "family reasons" were why he was stepping away, not a laundry list of abuse allegations?

Because no one is looking out for these women. 

Most of the time, such behavior is overlooked, particularly by the boosters who influence such decisions, because a program is winning, and winning, as we all know, is far more important than the safety and well-being of other human beings, especially when those in danger are women. (Insert hardest of eye rolls here.)

That's why LSU's players, coaches and administrators faced little in the way of sanctions before USA Today started publishing its findings. That's why Hillsman was painted as a quirky eccentric and not a tyrant.

But Newbauer wasn't even winning — at a school where winning is demanded, in every sport.

More frightening for women still on the Gators roster: Kelly Rae Finley, the assistant coach who is alleged to have done the most to try to sweep Newbauer's vile behavior under the rug, is now interim head coach.

So again we ask: Is anyone looking out for these women? 

As someone who recently dropped her oldest daughter off at college, one of the biggest fears you have is what others could do to your child and you're not there to protect them. Our daughter was not recruited as an athlete, but we're still placing our trust in the instructors, staff and administrators of her school that her safety and mental and physical well-being will be valued and respected.

Coaches go into families' homes and make such promises when they're recruiting athletes. They're going to help them become strong young women or better young men, blah blah blah. It is a despicable betrayal to discover that not only is a coach a snake, the people above that coach know that person is a snake and are doing little to nothing to protect your child from their venom.

As always with these stories, we wish the women and those who survived Newbauer's reign peace as they move forward.

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