As the Longhorns prepare to travel up to Stillwater, Okla., the more intriguing matchup between Texas and Oklahoma State might be happening in a courtroom.
Joe Wickline is the Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator, but before that, he spent nine years on the Cowboys' offensive line. There, he earned his reputation as one of the best recruiters and talent developers in the country. In fact, Wickline was so valuable to the Cowboys that the program wrote a clause into his contract stipulating that he would only be allowed to walk away from his contract without penalty (a buyout clause close to $600,000) if he assumed a position that involved calling his team's plays. Last winter when the Longhorns called, Wickline knew he couldn't make a lateral move to coach UT's O-line without paying 100% of one year's salary to Oklahoma State, so the Longhorns offered him play-calling duties on top.
Initially, Charlie Strong was adamant that Wickline would be running the show. But the OSU administration remained vigilant and pretty much did the athletic director equivalent of Facebook-stalking your ex just so you can get jealous of all the cool vacations she gets to go on with her new boyfriend. Soon thereafter, the truth came out: At a March 18 press conference, Strong was asked who would have final say on plays between Wickline and Assistant Head Coach Shawn Watson and wavered: "When we go down the stretch and we have to have a call made, I think Shawn" will call the play.
That's all OSU's Athletic Director Mike Holder needed to hear. He set the wheels in motion for a $593,478 lawsuit against his former coach, alleging that Wickline left for Texas in what was essentially a promotion in name only. Texas AD Steve Patterson has washed his hands of the suit, leaving Wickline to fight against OSU on his own. Now the legal battle has turned into a fully fledged Big 12 shitshow, with Wickline arguing that he can't get a fair trial in Stillwater and demanding the hearings be moved to Austin.
It's generally not good business practice to sue your former employees for a year's salary, but Oklahoma State is playing on tilt against their old coach. You can bet your ass that Wickline is going to be fired up going into Stillwater this weekend.
The courtroom drama adds to the intrigue of what's once again set to be the most important game of the Longhorns' season. UT will qualify for a bowl game with a victory, which in and of itself would be a pretty big deal considering all the turmoil and misfortune they've gone through in the last year. In the event of a loss to OSU, Texas faces the tall order of beating fifth-ranked TCU at home on Thanksgiving in order to become bowl eligible. A very unlikely scenario, but this Longhorns team has been full of surprises.