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December 11, 2010
Mike Hartline's career at Kentucky has come to an end.
The senior quarterback has been suspended for Kentucky's Jan. 8 Compass Bowl meeting with Pittsburgh, thus bringing to a close an embattled five-year tenure in the program. Hartline was arrested early Friday morning and charged with second-degree disorderly conduct, alcohol intoxication in a public place and failure to notify the department of transportation of an address change after an altercation that also involved two females.
"Mike has had a good record here conduct-wise and I regret that this has happened but it did," UK coach Joker Phillips said. "What he's done for us this year in leading us to our fifth straight bowl (is important) but we have clear expectations from our players on how we want them to act and behave and therefore we are going to suspend him for this game."
The disappointing end to Hartline's career comes after his best season, one in which he passed for 3,178 yards and 23 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. He was the first quarterback in school history to win three games over archrival Louisville as the starter and also engineered a second half comeback that ended a 10-year losing streak to South Carolina and defeat Steve Spurrier for the first time.
Even with those accomplishments Hartline was always a lightning rod for criticism and one of the most divisive topics between fans. Teammates publicly backed him without fail but he was never embraced by the masses outside the locker room.
Phillips said making the decision to suspend Hartline was easy in practice but tugged at him because of his history with the quarterback.
"It's tough on me because of how I feel about Mike and what he's done for this program," Phillips said. "But its something you have to do as a head coach to make a (disciplinary) decision. Our expectations are clear-cut and we have to stick with them. We lay out our rules and expect everyone to follow them.
"He'll be around some and will try to help some of the young guys out. He'll come to the bowl the last few days and be with the team if he chooses to."
Sophomore Morgan Newton will get the start in the Compass Bowl, while redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski will likely have an opportunity to play as well. As for Hartline, Phillips said he had to make the decision to suspend him based upon the rules he laid out for his team and being consistent in his implementation of them.
"We have 120 guys on our football team and the vast majority of the time our guys are doing what they're supposed to do," Phillips said. "However, when something like this happens we have to hold them accountable and this is one of the ways we have to discipline our players.
"This is a way we are helping them grow up and help them be a man. Mike understands it and our team understands that. It's an opportunity for someone else to step up."
Matt May is the football beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here. You can also follow "@TCPMAY" on Twitter for live updates.