Oklahoma State Seeks Strong Interview
AUSTIN — Oklahoma State notified Texas officials this week that it wants to take sworn statements from Longhorns coach Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson about who is calling the plays at Texas.
The move stems from Oklahoma State’s breach of contract lawsuit against former Cowboys assistant Joe Wickline, who is now on Strong’s staff at Texas.
Oklahoma State is suing Wickline in Oklahoma for nearly $600,000 because it says he made a lateral move to Texas and didn’t take a promotion with “play-calling duties” as stated in his previous contract. Wickline tried to countersue in Texas, but his claim was dismissed.
Wickline insists he does call plays for the Longhorns. Strong has said Watson, the quarterbacks coach, has final say on plays. And while not named in the lawsuit, Strong and his staff would be key witnesses.
Patti Ohlendorf, Texas vice president for legal affairs, said Texas officials received the request for the interviews late Monday afternoon and is not fighting the depositions. No subpoenas have been filed and likely wouldn’t be unless Texas later fought to block the move to depose the two coaches.
“I said I was happy to facilitate scheduling for convenience,” Ohlendorf said.
“I don’t know the details of the litigation. We do understand coach Wickline’s defense and we believe he does call plays,” Ohlendorf said, adding that Strong and Watson will be “completely truthful or supportive” when questioned under oath.
A message was left seeking comment from Strong.
The legal move by Big 12 rivals to peel back the curtain on a program’s play-calling may be highly unusual in college football, but it was not unexpected. Oklahoma State had publicly warned Texas that it was considering seeking depositions from Strong, his staff and even players if needed to get at who called the plays as Texas went 6-7 in Strong’s first season.
“We believe they have relevant and material information that will be important to a jury in Oklahoma deciding why the (Wickline) contract is not being honored,” said Sean Breen, Oklahoma State’s Austin-based attorney.
Texas officials have tried to keep their distance from the case, calling it a contract dispute between an individual and his former employer.
And Strong has so far avoided getting too close to legal questions — he didn’t attend a December court hearing in Austin — but his contradictory statements as he put together his staff in 2014 are at the heart of Oklahoma State’s lawsuit.
When announcing his staff in January, Strong said Watson would collaborate but that “Joe will call the plays on offense.” Two months later, 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 that the school considered him in breach of contract and sued him in October for $593,478 in damages. (AP)