The decision is in…when Joker Phillips looked Brett Dawson in the eye and told him he was taking his talents to Hartline Beach, the Big Blue Nation exhaled that the big storyline of football camp was finally complete. As expected, the choice of Hartline has been controversial in Big Blue land. On KSR, Morgan Newton was the preferred choice by a 2-1 margin and Mike Hartline has collected a number of detractors during his long career in Lexington. Some of that is his fault and some of it is not. Many fans gave him too much grief initially for not being of the caliber of the guys who proceeded him, nearly all of whom spent some time in the NFL. Mike didnt help himself by twice making comments after losses that seemed to throw his teammates under the bus, and that stigma has stayed attached to him since that time.
However much of the criticism of Hartline has been unfair. I have made the case on here often that I believe UK football fans have unreasonable expectations and Hartline has been the greatest victim of that philosophy. When Andre Woodson took UK to two straight bowl games, Kentucky fans then wanted Mike Hartline to take them to the next step, a step that is virtually impossible for UK to reach. When that didnt happen, fans complained. Hartline’s record has not been perfect, but he has played well in a number of games. His 2-0 record against Louisville is important and he was playing very well before being injured last year against South Carolina. Hartline’s not perfect, but he plays consistently better than most fans ultimately give him credit for.
We should be surprised that Joker picked Hartline. Joker favors Seniors over inexperience and its clear that he feels Mike is a better game manager. I was a bit surprised that he didnt name a #2 today, leaving it open between Newton and Mossakowski, a decision that may have more to do with the future than it does with the present year. When the Cats go to Louisville, Hartline will take the field and the real question becomes how much of a leash he will get form the coaching staff. Phillips says that they are not running plays for a #2 guy and that “Mike is our guy”, but one has to wonder what happens if he comes out flat. But ultimately, while the decision may not be a super popular one in the Bluegrass, it now has been made and here is hoping the fans get behind it. Its Hartline’s time and even if you dont agree that the correct lever was pulled, now it has been pulled. Time to get behind it and support the QB as he goes for his third straight victory over the dirty Cards.
And with that, our Annual Louisville Hate Day is September 2nd…mark your calendars accordingly.