Key Harrington Barnes, PC

UT Austin's new offensive coordinator countersues over contract

When Joe Wickline got a job as an offensive line coach at Oklahoma State, he never expected to be in that position forever. In fact, his contract with OSU laid out explicit rules for when and how he could be released from OSU to take another job. Specifically, that contract says that OSU is to release him from his position and any liability for damages if he "is offered and accepts a position as the 'offensive coordinator (with play calling duties) at another NCAA Division I-A Institution."

The University of Texas at Austin is an NCAA Division 1-A school. Wickline was offered and accepted the job of offensive coordinator in January.

He thought he'd taken a step up the coaching ladder until March, when OSU sued him for breach of contract for leaving the college and demanded over $593,000 in damages. Worse yet, they claimed he wasn't even UT Austin's offensive coordinator at all, but merely "an assistant coach in charge of the offensive line." What gives?

According to a countersuit just filed by Wickline, OSU doesn't have a legitimate complaint; it just doesn't want to lose him. In fact, the athletic director at OSU allegedly came right out and told Wickline he would never voluntarily release him because he was "the best offensive line coach in the country." He accuses OSU of tortious interference with his UT contract -- intentionally interfering with a legitimate contractual relationship.

From OSU's point of view, Wickline hasn't been able to prove he has been calling plays for the Longhorns. In its lawsuit against Wickline, OSU claims that, in January, UT Austin's head coach said Wickline would be the Longhorns' primary play-caller -- but in March he changed his mind and gave the final play-calling responsibility to the assistant head coach. When the fall season began, OSU says, Wickline has discussed calls with the media but hasn't actually made those calls. Instead, Wickline's job is coordinating the Longhorns' running game.

In other words, according to the OSU lawsuit, Wickline's job at UT Austin was a lateral move -- essentially the same position as he'd held at OSU, not the step up that would allow him to get out of his contract.

Did UT Austin poach the coach? Or has OSU been harassing Wickline and the University of Texas in an effort to tank him?

Sources:

  • Courthouse News Service, "Texas, Oklahoma Take Football Fight to Court," Ryan Kocian, Oct. 24, 2014
  • mySanAntonio.com, "UT's Wickline suing former school," Mike Finger, Oct. 22, 2014

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