Oklahoma State sues Texas coach Joe Wickline

Jori Epstein

Joe Wickline, Texas’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, thought he was done dealing with Oklahoma State administrators in January when he left Stillwater, Oklahoma, to work for Texas. 

But throughout the last eight months, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder has reminded Wickline that the Cowboys aren’t as far away as he thought. 

On Oct. 17, the Oklahoma State System sued Wickline, claiming that he does not actually hold the play-calling responsibilities he claims he does. The suit reiterates complaints dating back to March 24, when Holder wrote Wickline a letter saying Wickline violated his previous Oklahoma State contract.

“Regrettably, it has come to our attention that neither of those statements [about your responsibilities] is apparently accurate,” Holder’s letter said. “In reality, it appears you unilaterally and voluntarily terminated the contract to make a lateral move.”

According to Oklahoma State’s lawsuit this month, Wickline “recognized that the loss of his services to OSU … would cause an inherent loss to OSU incapable of estimation with certainty, fairness or adequate compensation through monetary damages.” 

In their 2009 contract, Oklahoma State said that for Wickline to avoid triggering the obligation to pay liquidated damages — in this case, $593,478 — he must work as an NFL assistant coach or a Division I offensive coordinator, with play-calling duties. In the lawsuit filed last week, Oklahoma State claimed Wickline violated the terms that he must “accept employment as a Head Football Coach or as an Offensive Coordinator with play calling duties.”

The latter clause, “with play calling duties,” is the source of disagreement between Oklahoma State and Wickline. Alhough head coach Charlie Strong said Wickline would call plays at the time of his hire in January, many speculate that Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks coach, instead fulfills these responsibilities.

Speculations have stirred ever since Strong’s comments in March, noting that, according to ESPN, “the one final voice will be Shawn.” Interviews with Strong, Watson and players suggest that Watson calls at least the majority of plays while Wickline supervises the run game. This week specifically, Watson discussed scripting plays for the team.

“I’ll only go anywhere from 15 to 25 [plays],” Watson said Tuesday. “Basically, for me, it’s a hot list. This past week, I only used the first 21, and we were on task with what we were doing.”

Watson did not mention Wickline’s role in developing the plays.

Wickline is set to face Oklahoma State in court in Stillwater on Nov. 15, at which time the court will need to determine whether Wickline calls enough plays for his position to qualify as more than just a lateral move. According to the Austin American-Statesman, UT law graduate David Beck, who donates to the University, will represent Wickline.