As soon as news emerged that Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins had been cited for possession of marijuana, the question rang out from the Atlantic to the Ozarks:
“How will Will Muschamp discipline the first player to get into trouble on his watch?”
ESPN.com’s Chris Low asked that question. So did Florida fan bloggers. Heck, just about everyone asked that question.
And the answer?
“We are aware of the incident with Janoris Jenkins and will handle it internally at this time,” said the new coach’s press release.
When Muschamp took over in Gainesville, he promised a get-tough approach to Gators making bad headlines. Discipline would be a pillar of his program.
But faced with a star player dumb to being rolling a joint in a public nightclub… Muschamp blinked. “We’ll handle it internally.” So much for “Dirty Harry.”
This should surprise no one, of course. With increased media coverage, more player arrests are publicized these days. As a result, coaches are under more scrutiny than ever before when it comes to the behavior of their players. So they talk about discipline among the ranks. They claim to target “quality young men” and not just guys with good 40 times. Many even start special programs and classes designed to foster maturity and leadership skills in their athletes. Why most even get tough with the occasional walk-on (or the four-star recruit who’s turned out to be more of a one-star type player).
But, boy, do they ever look the other way when a star stumbles.
This isn’t just a Muschamp issue, of course. The last new coach to enter the conference talking tough was another Nick Saban protege — Derek Dooley at Tennessee. Like Muschamp, he too has a star defensive back who has gotten himself into trouble with marijuana… on more than one occasion. But All-SEC safety Janzen Jackson remains on the Volunteer football team.
Lesson: When you hear tough talk, don’t take it seriously.
Personally, I’m not a “letter of the law” type of guy in the first place. I’d be more likely to forgive a player and move on (at least to a point). But it’s for that very reason that I would never introduce myself as some sort of rigid disciplinarian.
Most coaches would be much better off never bringing up discipline at all during an opening press conference. Better to let fans and media learn about their disciplinary beliefs as off-field issues arise. To make a big deal out of behavior and discipline and “leadership programs” right out of the gate only invites fans and media to roll their eyes when the first blue-chipper flubs and then gets the usual “internal discipline.”
To talk tough and not deliver just leaves most folks saying, “Oh.”