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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Cats' Joker Phillips takes hard stand

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

In keeping with his strict track record at Kentucky, coach Joker Phillips has again come down hard on players who get in trouble off the field.

Phillips dismissed linebacker Ridge Wilson from the team on Monday after Wilson was arrested on felony drug charges over the weekend in his hometown of Louisville. Initially, Kentucky officials said Wilson had been indefinitely suspended, but that was soon changed to a dismissal.

Any time a college athlete is charged with a felony, it's always going to be an uphill battle for that athlete to remain on the team. Every situation is different, but we've seen coaches allow the legal process to play out before deciding whether or not to dismiss the athlete. That was the case with LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson last season. His felony assault charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, and he was allowed to rejoin the team after missing the first four games.

In Wilson's case, he had been in trouble before. As a freshman, he was suspended from the team after being arrested for assault when police said he punched a woman in the face and then fled the scene.

Wilson recorded 47 tackles last season, including three for loss. He would have been the third leading returning tackler next season for the Wildcats. His dismissal means Kentucky will have to reload at the linebacker position as well as the hybrid linebacker/safety spot that Winston Guy played. Also gone are Danny Trevathan and Ronnie Sneed.

But the circumstances surrounding Wilson's arrest left Phillips with very little choice. Plus, Phillips hasn't been one to put up with a lot of nonsense off the field -- period.

Think back to the BBVA Compass Bowl two years ago. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and alcohol intoxication in early December and was suspended by Phillips for the bowl game. Hartline was coming off his best season and poised to play in his final game as a Wildcat. Instead, he found himself on the sideline, and Kentucky lost 27-10 to Pittsburgh.