An Austin court is in the midst of an ongoing suit between Oklahoma State and Joe Wickline where the school claims its former offensive line coach owes a $600,000 buyout for taking a lateral position at another institution. Wickline claims he did not, evidenced by the fact the sign on his door reads "offensive coordinator." At the heart of the matter is just how many plays Wickline calls - and no one seems to know.
Head coach Charlie strong hasn't had a clear answer since hiring Wickline and assistant head coach Shawn Watson 15 months ago and still doesn't today. Here he is last March: "Joe Wickline will call plays on offense," Strong said at the time. "He is the offensive coordinator, he will call plays but Shawn has been the guy who also -- and Les (Koenning, a wide receivers coach that has since been let go) has called at Mississippi State. So all three will collaborate together but it will be a system when you look at it offensively you have three coordinators there but Joe will call the plays on offense." In that same breath Strong said Watson will be the "one, final voice."
Asked Wednesday who called the plays in Texas' 31-7 Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas, Strong said, "I don't want to remember that game, we were so bad." The Longhorns gained only 59 yards that night, the school's worst output in 71 years and a low-point in a season that saw Texas rank 110th in yards per play and 109th in scoring.
If Strong doesn't know who calls the plays, maybe Watson does. What do you say, Shawn? "When I walk in the room, I get it started." Okay, then.
Though no one was willing to admit it outright, Watson was the Longhorns' offensive coordinator while Wickline served as run game coordinator. "When we do our opening script, you know, he gives me his opening runs that he likes, then I, you know, we merge it with the passing game," Watson said.
As for Wickline: "I'm a decision-maker. I make calls. I call plays." His countersuit against Oklahoma State was dismissed by a Texas judge in January.
But Watson also left no doubt that the play call - at least while the game was in doubt - came from his lips. From the Associated Press:
Why doesn't Texas, the richest athletics department in the country, just pony up the $600,000 and make this nuisance go away? Athletics director Steve Patterson has insisted from the start of this now six-month suit that it's a Joe Wickline problem and not a University of Texas problem. “It’s between Joe and his former employer,” Patterson said in October. “They’re both represented by competent folks. We’ll let it sort out where it sorts out.”
The Longhorns also suffer from buyout fatigue after paying Mack Brown $2.75 million and a $500,000 one-time salary after the 2013 season, $4.375 million to get Charlie Strong out of Louisville, $1.75 million to remove basketball coach Rick Barnes and $500,000 to pry Shaka Smart away from Virginia Commonwealth.
That's $9.875 million in buyouts, all on top of the considerable salaries Texas pays its football and basketball staffs.
One thing is clear, though: Oklahoma State is not stopping until it gets its money. The AP reported Oklahoma State's attorneys could seek testimony from former Texas players and coaches.
The head coach can't give a coherent answer, and his top two lieutenants can't agree on the chain of command. Get the Longhorns' offensive brain trust in a court room and it becomes crystal clear why their 2014 outfit was such a mess on the field.