Archive for Wednesday, October 30, 1996


October 30, 1996


I labored over this column. I really did. I thought about it, I asked people about it, I polled and I prodded.

I even soul-searched a little.

And after all that ... I still don't know what to write.

Last Thursday morning, Kansas University running back June Henley was pulled over by police and arrested on three charges, including suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. About 12 hours later, KU coach Glen Mason suspended Henley and announced he would not play in KU's game last Saturday at Nebraska. On Monday, Mason announced Henley had been reinstated. He might travel to Iowa State this Saturday. He might not.

Now here's the dilemma: As KU football beat writer and columnist, it is my duty to take a stand on Mason's decision to reinstate his star. Trouble is, I don't know what stand to take.

Did Mason take the correct step in suspending Henley immediately? Absolutely. Did he err in reinstating him after one game? Maybe.

During his Monday media session, Mason gave a lengthy preface to his announcement. He spoke out about drunk driving. He talked about his children. He talked about drinking on campus, and he talked about societal ills.

In short, he said all the right things.

Then he announced Henley would rejoin the team, though he wouldn't say if Henley would even make the trip to Iowa State on Saturday.

That announcement was met with not a little outrage. Mason was grilled on his Monday radio talk show. The Journal-World fielded a few phone calls, as did various offices in the KU athletic department.

Mason made his decision well aware that he'd take some heat, and he did.

Unfortunately for Mason, there was no right decision. Suspend Henley for the rest of the season, and the fans are upset. Reinstate him, and other people are upset.

It was Mason's decision -- and his job -- to proclaim at what point the punishment fit the crime, and he decided.

Would a longer suspension have sent a stronger message? Certainly. But where is it written that an arrest on suspicion of DUI equals suspension for one game, or two, or the rest of the season?

All the while I was pondering this column, part of Mason's preface kept coming back to me.

"People who get to know June Henley like June Henley," Mason said. "I think some things about him give him a bad reputation and have been blown out of proportion. I really do. I've been around kids for a long time, and I like the heck out of him."

I tend to agree.

I've gotten to know Henley better than most and worse than some. I called him on the phone the day he committed to KU, and I've talked to him for four seasons.

We're not friends. But I know him, and I like him.

Is he a bad kid? No. In fact, he's one of the best kids on the team.

I think I know him well enough to know he was hurt when he saw his picture on CNN and SportsCenter. But I also think he was hurt more when he had to face his teammates for the first time.

Did Henley receive punishment enough? Who knows. It's not for me to decide, and, believe me, for that I'm thankful.

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