The embarrassing legal war over who really called plays at Texas during the 2014 season is finally over.
Former Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline has reached a settlement with Oklahoma State officials, OSU attorney Sean Breen said Tuesday. Oklahoma State spokesman Gary Shutt said the settlement amount was $250,000. OSU officials were seeking almost $600,000 had the case gone to trial in May as scheduled.
“We are glad to reach a settlement, and wish Coach Wickline the best,” Shutt said.
Texas officials kept a safe distance and declined to comment throughout the proceedings, although future UT regent David Beck was initially listed as Wickline’s attorney. It’s unclear whether athletic director Mike Perrin had any influence on the settlement talks. This fall, Perrin called the case “a distraction.”
“The university was not a party to the lawsuit and does not have details regarding settlement terms,” Texas spokesman Gary Susswein said. “UT welcomes the news that the parties have reached an agreement.”
Some observers believed the case would settle quickly once UT coach Charlie Strong fired Wickline after the season. Wickline was replaced by Tulsa offensive line coach Matt Mattox, who came to UT as something of a package deal with new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
Had the case gone to trial, Strong, former quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and quarterback Tyrone Swoopes were all named as witnesses that could have been called to testify.
The quiet settlement, orchestrated during the holidays, brings a subdued end to one of the strangest two-year periods in Texas athletics history. Strong has known Wickline since the beginning of their professional careers as graduate assistants together at Florida in 1983. Strong hired Wickline away from Oklahoma State to become UT’s offensive line coach prior to the 2014 season.
However, once news broke of the impending hire, OSU officials made it known Wickline had a clause in his contract stating he must be named offensive coordinator with “play-calling duties.” If Wickline made only a lateral move to any new school, Wickline would owe OSU contractual damages.
When Strong announced his initial staff, Wickline was named offensive coordinator. But Wickline and Shawn Watson would both call plays. It quickly became apparent that Watson was the primary play-caller and had “one final voice,” Strong said. According to legal documents filed in Payne County, Okla., OSU athletic director Mike Holder began sending letters to Wickline and then-UT athletic director Steve Patterson stating the Cowboys were owed almost $600,000 in damages.
Patterson always had a cool reception to the court filing, stating that Texas was never a party in the lawsuit, thus the school had no responsibility. Technically, he was right. UT officials had no legal obligation to do anything, although it was widely viewed as an unnecessary public relations nightmare. At one point, Strong said the case would be “settled the right way.”
During the depositions, Wickline was combative when asked direct questions over who called plays. Strong accidentally forgot Swoopes’ first name during his deposition. The case was always front and center when Texas faced Oklahoma State in 2014 and 2015.
Strong demoted both Watson and Wickline as “co-play callers” after the 2015 season-opening loss to Notre Dame. Watson coached quarterbacks, Wickline handled the offensive line and receivers coach Jay Norvell called plays the final 11 games.
But now, it’s over, for less than half of what OSU wanted all along.