AUSTIN (AP) — Who’s calling the plays for the Texas Longhorns this season? It may take a lawsuit by Oklahoma State against Texas assistant coach Joe Wickline to find out.
Wickline’s former employer has sued him in Payne County, Oklahoma, seeking nearly $600,000 it says he owes the school. Wickline this week countersued in Austin, saying Oklahoma State has caused him injury and mental anguish and is trying to interfere with his Texas contract.
Wickline was Oklahoma State’s offensive line coach for nine seasons until he was hired away by first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong in January. Strong gave Wickline the title of offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.
Texas also hired Shawn Watson, Strong’s former offensive coordinator at Louisville, with the title of assistant head coach to the offense and quarterbacks coach.
According to Oklahoma State’s lawsuit, Wickline’s contract with Cowboys allowed him to leave without financial penalty only if he took a job as a head coach or offensive coordinator with play-calling duties.
Wickline say he’s calling plays at Texas. Oklahoma State says that’s Watson’s job. And Strong’s comments up until now have only confused the issue.
The potential conflict was widely reported when Wickline was hired and Strong was pressed by reporters about who would be call plays.
On Jan. 15, Strong said Watson would collaborate but that “Joe will call the plays on offense.” On March 18, Strong said Wickline would be “involved” in play-calling but that “the one final voice will be Shawn.”
Six days later after Strong said Watson had the “final” call on plays, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder wrote Wickline, saying the school wished him well but it considered him in breach of contract and wanted $593,478 in damages.
“Upon your departure from OSU, you advised you accepted a position at another university as the offensive coordinator with ‘play calling duties,'” Holder wrote. “Regrettably, it has come to our attention that neither of those statements is apparently accurate.”
After another warning in April, Oklahoma State filed its lawsuit against Wickline on Oct. 17.
The next day, Texas beat Iowa State 48-45 in its best offensive game of the season. And on Monday, Strong credited Wickline with developing Texas’ running game, indicating he consulted both Wickline and Watson for plays on the Longhorns’ game-winning drive in the final 22 seconds.
A Texas spokesman did not immediately respond to a request to describe Wickline’s play-calling duties for the Longhorns, whether Texas would assist Wickline in his case or if it has ever promised to help him pay Oklahoma State if the school sought damages.
Wickline’s lawsuit suggests Oklahoma State is mad that “the best offensive line coach in the country” left for a Big 12 rival and accuses Cowboys officials of “harassing and intimidating (him) for the purpose of interfering with his ongoing employment with UT and his UT contract.”
Oklahoma State’s lawsuit does not name the University of Texas as a defendant and Wickline has obtained a private attorney from Houston.
The two teams play each other Nov. 15 in Stillwater.
AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt contributed from Oklahoma City.
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