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Published: Monday, 4/7/2003

Amstutz sends wrong message to Hefflin, team

University of Toledo football coach Tom Amstutz should have sent a stronger message to Brandon Hefflin and the rest of his team.

That way, Hefflin would have been made to understand the severity of his actions. It would have served him right.

Hefflin had an altercation with police, ambulance personnel and hospital workers after a bar fight in January.

I don't think Hefflin should be booted from the squad. But at least a one-game suspension would show that disruptive behavior of this kind won't be tolerated in any form or fashion.

He's a member of the Rockets athletic family, and he should be supported like a family member.

He made a mistake.

A two-month suspension in the offseason doesn't convey any of that.

Hefflin never missed a down of football. He didn't miss a single practice.

Based on Amstutz's decision to reinstate Hefflin - a senior-to-be who has started every game since his freshman season - there won't be any real consequences for Hefflin's disturbing behavior.

And based on Toledo's rush to get Hefflin back on the field, it reaffirms the perception that Amstutz is soft when it comes to discipline.

Amstutz allowed Hefflin to participate in spring drills two months after he was suspended from the team for his involvement in the late-night altercation.

Amstutz might think he's helping Hefflin by allowing him to return so quickly. But he's sending the opposite message to Hefflin and the rest of the team.

Amstutz's players like and respect him. But based on his treatment of Hefflin, they don't fear him.

A good leader should be feared as well as respected.

A lack of discipline has been the only blemish in Amstutz's tenure as UT's head coach.

There were virtually no consequences for Hefflin, who was reinstated to the team after undergoing general counseling, alcohol-assessment tests and anger-management counseling.

Hefflin was charged with one count each of escape, assault, resisting arrest and criminal trespass.

His blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit in Ohio, according to police.

Last month, Hefflin pleaded no contest to resisting arrest and an amended charge of disorderly conduct. Charges of criminal trespass and escape were dismissed.

Hefflin's behavior that night was outrageous, according to police. He argued with and spit on officers. He fought with ambulance personnel and police before being taken to a local hospital to be treated for injuries he suffered in the fight.

At the hospital, Hefflin was accused of throwing a portable urinal at an officer. He tried to run away from police.

In other words, Hefflin was totally out of control.

Amstutz attempted to justify Hefflin's behavior as an aberration, a night of binge drinking carried to the extreme.

Hefflin was fortunate on two counts.

Fortunate that his injuries were from the fight were not more serious.

And fortunate that he has a coach like Amstutz.

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