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Archive for Sunday, November 21, 1993

T FAZE KU PLAYERS

November 21, 1993

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June Henley didn't rob Fort Knox, he didn't pilfer the crown jewels from the Tower of London and he didn't set fire to the White House.

Kansas' freshman running back was cited last week in a misdemeanor shoplifting incident.

Yet, for all the media attention that misdeed received, some fans must have been surprised that Henley didn't show up Saturday at Memorial Stadium in chains.

Talk about a tempest in a teapot.

Fortunately for the Jayhawks, they were able to place it all into perspective and not let the overblown L'Affair Henley become a distraction and ruin their season finale.

"We've all done bad things," said senior co-captain Dan Schmidt after Henley had carried 32 times for 118 yards in the 28-0 win over Missouri. "But we're not 1,000-yard rushers so we don't get that much publicity."

Henley received more notoriety for that shoplifting incident than he did for producing more rushing yardage than any freshman in Big Eight history.

No doubt many people wondered why KU coach Glen Mason didn't suspend Henley for the Missouri game. Doubtless, too, Mason considered the possibility. But he let Henley play.

"I feel if I can look in a mirror and say it's the right thing to do, then I do it," Mason said. "I thought it was the right thing to do, taking everything into account."

Mason didn't say, but perhaps he felt Henley had been punished enough. Schmidt certainly did, and apparently he mentioned as much in a team meeting spurred by Thursday's revelation of Henley's alleged law-breaking.

"I talked to the team and I talked to him personally," Schmidt said. "I thought he had more punishment than he deserved. He was embarrassed. His family was embarrassed. It was on ESPN. It was national TV. I think it went too far."

What's clear is that the Kansas players and coaches do not consider Henley a bad actor.

"June's a good guy. He just made a mistake," said fullback Chris Powell who made many of the blocks that enabled Henley to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. "He's a good guy. Everybody makes mistakes. I have, too."

No. 2 running back Mark Sanders, the player most likely to benefit from Henley's absence, also supported the decision to allow Henley to play.

"The team was behind him," Sanders said. "He learned his lesson. He had his punishment."

His punishment?

"Uh, it was between the team," Sanders replied. "We're not supposed to talk about it too much."

So we know that Henley was indeed punished in-house in addition to whatever may happen in the courts.

I don't think it was a coincidence that as soon as Henley eclipsed Kerwin Bell's Big Eight freshman rushing record he didn't play anymore. That was midway through the fourth quarter and in the middle of what was the Jayhawks' final scoring drive.

Sanders entered soon after it was announced in the press box that Henley had overtaken Bell.

From that evidence, it would seem Mason didn't consider Henley's peccadillo heinous enough to prevent the 18-year-old from accomplishing something that would bolster his damaged self-esteem.

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