Lawsuit over play-calling at Texas heating up
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) The contract dispute between Oklahoma State and University of Texas assistant Joe Wickline hit courtrooms in two states Thursday, and lawyers for both sides said Texas coaches, administrators and players could ultimately be called to testify about who is calling the plays for the Longhorns.
Oklahoma State and Wickline sued each other in Oklahoma and Texas over what Oklahoma State considers a breach of contract by its former assistant.
At issue is whether Wickline is calling plays for Longhorns. Wickline says he is. Oklahoma State says he's not and wants him to pay a $600,000 penalty, arguing he took a lateral move to Texas, not a promotion as specified in his contract.
On Thursday, a judge in Stillwater, Oklahoma, allowed the school's case against the coach to proceed in that state. About three hours later in Austin, Texas, a judge heard arguments whether to dismiss Wickline's counter lawsuit, but indicated she may not rule until January.
The arguments in Austin focused on Wickline's legal standing to file a case in Texas that raises many of the same issues in the Oklahoma case. It did not touch on whether Wickline calls the offensive plays for the Longhorns.
Wickline attorney David Beck said outside the courtroom that Wickline's contract didn't specify that he call ''all plays,'' but that he ''just has play-calling duties.'' Beck said the Texas coaching staff and others could be asked to testify about who calls plays and what happens in the coaching booth during games.
''If your game plan is running, I would assume coach Wickline is going to have a lot of play-calling responsibilities,'' Beck said.
Neither Wickline nor Texas head coach Charlie Strong attended the hearing in Austin, but Strong's previous public statements have only confused the matter of who is calling plays for the Longhorns.
When announcing his staff in January, Strong said assistant Shawn Watson would collaborate but that ''Joe will call the plays on offense.'' In March, Strong said Wickline would be ''involved'' in play-calling but that ''the one final voice will be Shawn.''
After hearing Strong say Watson had ''final'' call on plays, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder informed Wickline it considered him in breach of contract and sued him October for $593,478 in damages.
Sean Breen, Oklahoma State's attorney in the Texas case, said Longhorns officials could have resolved the issue long ago if Texas had paid what Wickline owed Oklahoma State. He called that standard practice when coaches switch schools.
Texas has not been named as a party in either lawsuit.
''Joe Wickline is a fantastic coach,'' Breen said. ''Typically what you see is if an institution wants to hire a really good coach like Joe Wickline, they'll pay for it. It's befuddling that the University of Texas, with all its resources, wouldn't just do that for Mr. Wickline.''
A Texas spokesman declined immediate comment.