The Long, Strange, Sanction-Laden Trip of Miami's Seantrel Henderson

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterFebruary 20, 2013

Miami Hurricane tackle Seantrel Henderson just can't seem to catch a break. 

At some point, the kid's going to run into some good luck but right now, he has to be wondering what other curveballs life could have in store for him. 

His bizarre journey began in 2010 and it has been a non-stop roller coaster ride ever since. 

Henderson was a 5-star offensive tackle from Saint Paul, Minn., and ranked as the country's No. 1 overall prospect—everybody wanted the 6'8", 338-pound lineman. His profile from Scout:

Perfect symmetry in pass pro, feet are shoulder width apart. Hands on thigh pads, elbows bent, not over extending past shoulders. Perfect kick step to the slide. Upper body vertical with knees bent and feet moving. Places his hands up to chest level ready to deliver a punch. His butt is down and his back is about as flat as you could expect from a 6-foot-8 man.

In February 2010, Henderson announced that he would commit to USC—he had also been recruited by Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida and Miami, to name just a few.

Henderson described to Scout how difficult his recruitment had been:

"I just try to take things in stride really, but at the same time, it is pretty stressful," he admitted. "Every time I think things are starting to fall in place, something happens, and then I'm kind of thrown for a loop. It's hard for me to narrow it down where I want to go because there have been so many coaching changes, and other things happening."

Unfortunately for Henderson, his recruitment was a piece of cake compared to what lay in store for him over the next three years. Henderson didn't sign his letter of intent with USC on signing day due to the NCAA's ongoing investigation of the school. Henderson eventually sent in his paperwork on March 23 and Trojan fans could finally exhale—Henderson was a Trojan.

Less than three months later, Henderson's streak of bad luck began—on June 10 USC was sanctioned by the NCAA after the Association determined that USC lacked institutional control over several athletic programs including its high-profile football program. USC received probation, a two-year postseason ban and a three-year scholarship reduction from 25/85 to 15/75.

In July, USC released Henderson from his letter of intent after he was unable to qualify for USC's summer session, according to Scout

"As of 1:30 p.m. today, we are releasing Seantrel Henderson out of his national letter of intent with zero penalties and no restrictions,” Kiffin said in a statement. “Seantrel has been great through the whole process and we wish him the best of luck with his decision."

Henderson signed with Miami and started nine games at right tackle as a true freshman and earned Freshman All-America first and second team honors but he only played as a reserve in the 2010 Sun Bowl after suffering from a stomach illness during the team's bowl preparations. For what it's worth, the man who had recruited Henderson to Miami, head coach Randy Shannon, had been dismissed three weeks prior to the Sun Bowl game.  

Despite starting at tackle in 2010, Henderson was listed as the No. 2 left tackle after 2011's spring practice ended. Henderson was not able to play in the Hurricane's spring game due to what the Sun-Sentinel described as lingering "back problems since spring practice."

There were rumors Henderson would transfer in March 2011 but Henderson and head coach Al Golden refuted those rumors with strongly-worded statements. There were also rumors of a season opener suspension due to academics or a violation of team rules that were never confirmed by the school. It would turn out that eight players were suspended for the Hurricanes' season opener against Maryland—Miami lost 32-24.

Rumors of pending back surgery, however, were true—Henderson underwent back surgery in early August. Henderson would end up playing in eight games—starting in two of them—but that was probably the least of his worries.

Yahoo!Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson published his expose on the Nevin Shapiro scandal that rocked college football to its core on August 11—USC's transgressions seemed like child's play compared to the allegations made in Robinson's story. The U was under siege and the allegations were shocking. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris actually made an apology alluding to "mistakes" he made in his freshman year. 

The elephant in the room couldn't be ignored: Seantrel Henderson had transferred out of USC so he wouldn't have to play under heavy sanctions and now his team may be facing similar penalties? In the mean time, Miami went 6-6 in 2011 and despite being bowl eligible, it self-imposed a post season ban to ostensibly curry favor from the NCAA when/if the presumed penalties were doled out. 

Last season was a mixed bag for Henderson. In August of 2012, a family member and a close friend both died. Before leaving for Minnesota to attend his friend's funeral, Henderson (and a reported teammate) was involved in a car accident. The Miami Herald reported that Henderson was cited for three infractions, per the Miami-Dade County Clerk records: "driving with an expired driver’s license, disobeying a traffic sign, and driving without a license unknowingly. He was fined a total of $484." More from the Miami Herald:

UM coach Al Golden told reporters before Thursday morning’s practice that Henderson had a medical issue, which he believed to be a concussion, and that the 6-8, 340-pound offensive lineman has yet to be fully cleared to practice.

Henderson played in 11 games starting the final seven at right tackle. The 2010 No. 1 recruit in the country was named to the All-ACC team as a honorable mention in his junior year. The Hurricanes finished 7-5 and were the leader in the Coastal division but for the second straight year, the school self-imposed a postseason ban. Seantrel Henderson would not play in the ACC conference championship game nor would he have a shot at playing in the BCS' Orange Bowl. USC, coincidentally, would actually play in a bowl after serving out its two-year postseason ban.  

Meanwhile, the Nevin Shapiro scandal would take a lot of twists and turns—some of the evidence didn't seem as strong as once reported. The NCAA would discover it took some "missteps" in its investigation of Miami that would eventually get some evidence tossed due to improper conduct by its investigators.

Henderson had a big decision to make while all this was swirling around—should he forego his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft? The way things sounded at the time, Miami may actually avoid getting the big hit USC received from the NCAA because it had already self-imposed a two-year postseason ban. According to Sports Illustrated, Miami essentially hammered itself:

Already, Miami's football program has voluntarily forfeited the right to appear in two bowl games, along with one trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, up to 30 practices and an undisclosed number of scholarships in response to the investigation. Earlier this month, coach Al Golden told The Associated Press that he believes the Hurricanes have already paid "a huge penalty."

Moreover, if Henderson decided to return to Miami for the 2013 season, the senior would finally get his shot at playing in a BCS bowl or championship game. On Monday, January 14, Seantrel Henderson announced in a press conference that he would return for his senior season, according to Inside The U. More:

"I am going to stay to try to win an ACC title and national title," Henderson said Monday at a press conference.

Nine days later, the NCAA would announce it had begun an external review of its handling of the Miami investigation. Henderson, it appeared, had finally had a stroke of good fortune after what Golden described as one who has "suffered through some injuries, has endured personal tragedy as well as created a number of self-inflicted distractions which we believe he has left in the past." 

That good feeling would last exactly 27 days—last Tuesday Miami reportedly received its notice of allegations from the NCAA, and included in the document is the dreaded "lack of institutional control" charge which usually carries severe penalties with it.

Henderson, it appears, may have transferred to a school that will be under severe sanctions during his senior year.

It's unfathomable that the nation's No. 1 recruit could sign with a school after a circus-like recruitment, transfer out after the school was hit hard by heavy sanctions, transfer into a school and be named All-America in his freshman year, miss starting in a bowl game, go two years straight without starting all of the entire season's games, go two years straight without playing in a bowl (despite being bowl eligible), decide to skip the 2013 NFL draft so he can win his school a BCS championship, and then find out his school has been hit with a lack of institutional control charge.

All of this happened to Seantrel Henderson.

He could have gone on to the NFL had he declared early. Instead of worrying about what Miami's penalties will be, he could be cashing a paycheck. Maybe everything will turn out fine.

Maybe Miami will appeal the looming sanctions until all avenues have been exhausted thereby delaying the penalties until after the season has ended. Maybe Miami will get a "time served" hall pass from the NCAA and be bowl eligible for the 2013 season.

That's a lot of maybes, and considering the luck Seantrel Henderson has had, I wouldn't count it.

Hopefully, the kid will finally get a break. We need to see more of this Seantrel on the sidelines:




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