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Muschamp's words hold little weight as arrests pile up

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Posted: Friday, February 17, 2012 1:25 am | Updated: 5:47 pm, Fri Feb 17, 2012.

What happened to the Florida Way?

You all remember the line Will Muschamp uttered when he was introduced as Floridaís coach on Dec. 14, 2010; the words that generated excitement among fans and made everyone think Muschamp was the kind of no-nonsense guy the Gators needed after players accrued more than 30 arrests during Urban Meyer's tenure.

"There's a certain thing that I'm going to refer to as the Florida Way, and that's the way they need to act and that's the way they need to represent our university," Muschamp said. "Iím going to demand that, and I think that you'll understand in time that that's something that's very important to me."

Fourteen months later, though, the Florida Way has simply fallen by the wayside.

The arrest counter crept into double-digits Wednesday night when tight end A.C. Leonard was charged with domestic battery. The 10 arrests by nine different players in just more than a year signal one of two things: Either the Florida Way isn't important to Muschamp, or he doesn't have control of his team.

Regardless of the answer, Muschamp must send a message to his team and to the fanbase that proves he is serious about this program.

Florida released a statement from Muschamp on Thursday evening saying Leonard has been suspended and that he doesn't "condone this type of behavior."

Muschamp took the easy way out.  

The myriad arrests under Meyer were masked by the product on the field, because winning cures all. Muschamp doesnít have that luxury following a 7-6 season; he needed to take action.

After Janoris Jenkins racked up his second marijuana-related arrest in a matter of months, Muschamp showed the Gators' best player the door. If Muschamp is serious, and wants the rest of us to believe he is, he should have made an example of Leonard.

The details of the Gainesville Police Departmentís arrest report are repulsive, and if itís true that Leonard ripped "chunks of hair" out of the victim's head, pushed her into a dog cage and even dragged her feet first out of his apartment, then Muschamp needs to do more. And more importantly, he needs to make it clear that domestic violence will not be tolerated.

I don't care much if players smoke marijuana or drink underage. But violence against women or children is inexcusable and should be treated as such.

If Muschamp is willing to publicly take the NCAA to task for suspending Sharrif Floyd early in the season, then he should do the same when his own players act reprehensibly.

Jenkins got the boot because it was his second offense, and while this is Leonard's first arrest, it is not his first incident involving violence, as he once swung on an opponent during a game his senior year of high school.

That should have made it easier for Muschamp to make an example of Leonard. 

Pull his scholarship. Boot him from the team. Do something to prove that domestic violence is a serious issue. 

But he didn't.

Muschamp needs to decide which way he wants this program to head, both on the field and off it, because the Florida Way clearly isn't working out.

Contact Tom Green at tgreen@alligator.org.

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