COLUMN: Hartline’s mistake as a glorified student


Senior quarterback Mike Hartline looks for an open reciever while being pursued by defensive tackle Mister Cobble during the Blue White game at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday April 24, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

With one game remaining in his up-and-down collegiate career, UK quarterback Mike Hartline had nearly, if not finally, won the heart of the Big Blue Nation. Things changed Friday morning.

Hartline was arrested around 3 a.m. for public intoxication and disorderly conduct at a residential address on Crescent Avenue after leaving The Tin Roof bar earlier that evening.

In hindsight, poor gameplanning.

But to say the charges against Hartline were atypical of daily events around the university is foolish. In essence, Hartline, who is of age, was drunk, called for a responsible means of transportation (a taxi cab) and then engaged in a verbal altercation consisting of “screaming and cursing” with a group of women.

The biggest question mark that remains in the case is whether or not he truly struck one of the female witnesses. In many ways, it may be the determining factor in whether or not he plays in his final game, and whether the fans that he may have finally won over are willing to forgive him.  And, as stated in the report, assault charges will only be filed if done so by the witness who claimed assault. Whether or not the strike was intentional or accidental has not been determined.

Nonetheless, yet another UK football player made a decision he likely wishes he could take back.

Still, UK head coach Joker Phillips will have to decide how to handle Hartline in respect to whether or not he will play in UK’s Jan. 8 bowl game against Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 24, UK wide receiver Matt Roark, 20, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after colliding with another vehicle. Phillips suspended Roark for one game, leaving him unable to make the trip to Mississippi State on Oct. 30.

Hartline’s legal issues, however, came nearly one month before the team plays again, in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. In his defense, UK is not currently in an active practice or competition schedule as it would be closer to the bowl game.

The need to blow off steam after the grueling regular season concludes is more a necessity than a privilege for athletes of any age. However, athletes need to be aware that their actions are put under a microscope. But to expect perfection of any human being is irrational, though the incident certainly warrants questions about his decision-making and his apparent lack of understanding of what comes with the blue jersey he wears each week.

By no means should Hartline’s actions be excused, condoned or supported. Whether or not the situation is being overblown lies with the decision on the assault charge. Essentially, that is the determining factor on whether it was just a drunken night gone awry, or if Hartline truly made a decision worthy of harsh punishment.

As an individual representing UK, yes, he made a mistake, one that will inevitably come back to haunt him in some form. But if Hartline is allowed to play in January, the charges against him will go the way of any old news, rarely to be mentioned again.

View the full story on Hartline’s arrest here, a timeline of his career here and other incidents involving this season’s UK football team here.