John Clay: Hartline's rookie mistake puts Joker in tough spot

Will QB play in final game, or is he done?

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 11, 2010 

Mike Hartline

All season, Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline had performed with the poise and savvy of a fifth-year senior.

Then, less than a month before his final college game, in the early hours of Friday morning, the fifth-year senior made a rookie mistake.

According to the police report, Hartline and 20-year-old Ashley Kathleen Carnes, a UK cheerleader, were arrested on public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges after authorities were called to a disturbance outside a house on Crescent Avenue.

Apparently, the incident began as a group was in a taxi returning from The Tin Roof bar. An argument started. The report says Hartline was allegedly "screaming and cursing at the witness."

The report includes allegations Hartline and Carnes both hit their female accuser, but police declined to file charges against either party.

If it turns out that Hartline did strike a female, he should be done. Forget the bowl. Forget the final game. Forget the part about him being a fifth-year senior. Done.

If he did not, it's a little more complicated.

So much for bowl preparation, your starting quarterback involved in a 3 a.m. incident, then shown on TV news in an embarrassing piece of video with Hartline sprinting, like a scrambling quarterback, from jail to a waiting cab, with the news reporter sticking a microphone through an open window and into the back seat.

"Did you do anything wrong, Mike?" says the reporter.

You could almost hear a disgruntled segment of Big Blue Nation shouting back at the television: Of course, he didn't beat Tennessee.

Hartline haters have accused the quarterback of doing plenty wrong. The senior suffered more than his share of booing and ridiculing right up until this season, easily the best of his career.

The Ohio native threw for 23 touchdowns, compared to nine interceptions. He led UK to a victory over South Carolina. Overall, the season was something of a disappointment, the Cats ending up in something called the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., but little of that could be blamed on the quarterback. The offense was easily UK's strong side of the ball.

But then comes this very public negative. It's like Hartline was ready to take it into the end zone and then — fumble!

Now the ball bounces directly into the hands of UK Coach Joker Phillips.

There have been too many suspensions this football season, too many violations of team rules. There was Matt Roark's arrest on a DUI charge. Defensive tackle Mark Crawford was suspended for the season finale against Tennessee, plus the bowl game.

On the one hand, Phillips can be applauded for holding his players accountable with playing-time punishments, rather than the usual internal early-morning running sessions. On the other hand, you wonder if the players aren't still testing their former assistant coach.

There is a precedent here. In 2007, on the eve of the Music City Bowl, Rich Brooks suspended starting offensive lineman Jason Leger, keeping the senior out of his final college game, for a violation of team rules.

But that transgression happened in Nashville right before the game. Hartline's happened in Lexington, almost a month before the team even leaves for Birmingham.

Still, Phillips' decision could send an important message as he points toward an important second season. It's why he gets the big bucks.

It's just too bad it was a fifth-year senior who, near the finish line of his career, made such a rookie mistake.

him being a fifth-year senior. Done.

If he did not, it's a little more complicated.

So much for bowl preparation, your starting quarterback involved in a 3 a.m. incident, then shown on TV news in an embarrassing piece of video with Hartline sprinting, like a scrambling quarterback, from jail to a waiting cab, with the news reporter sticking a microphone through an open window and into the back seat.

"Did you do anything wrong, Mike?" says the reporter.

You could almost hear a disgruntled segment of Big Blue Nation shouting back at the television: Of course, he didn't beat Tennessee.

Hartline haters have accused the quarterback of doing plenty wrong. The senior suffered more than his share of booing and ridiculing right up until this season, easily the best of his career.

The Ohio native threw for 23 touchdowns, compared to nine interceptions. He led UK to a victory over South Carolina. Overall, the season was something of a disappointment, the Cats ending up in something called the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., but little of that could be blamed on the quarterback. The offense was easily UK's strong side of the ball.

But then comes this very public negative. It's like Hartline was ready to take it into the end zone and then — fumble!

Now the ball bounces directly into the hands of UK Coach Joker Phillips.

There have been too many suspensions this football season, too many violations of team rules. There was Matt Roark's arrest on a DUI charge. Defensive tackle Mark Crawford was suspended for the season finale against Tennessee, plus the bowl game.

On the one hand, Phillips can be applauded for holding his players accountable with playing-time punishments, rather than the usual internal early-morning running sessions. On the other hand, you wonder if the players aren't still testing their former assistant coach.

There is a precedent here. In 2007, on the eve of the Music City Bowl, Rich Brooks suspended starting offensive lineman Jason Leger, keeping the senior out of his final college game, for a violation of team rules.

But that transgression happened in Nashville right before the game. Hartline's happened in Lexington, a month before the team even leaves for Birmingham.

Still, Phillips' decision could send an important message as he points toward an important second season. It's why he gets the big bucks.

It's just too bad it was a fifth-year senior who, near the finish line of his career, made such a rookie mistake.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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