Who calls the plays for the Texas Longhorns?
Finding the answer to that question is at the heart of the lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma State Cowboys against former offensive line coach Joe Wickline, who would owe a $600,000 buyout to his old employer if it's determined that he does not in fact call the plays as the offensive coordinator for the Horns.
The story goes all the way back to the start of head coach Charlie Strong's tenure, when he seemingly contradicted himself in saying that Wickline would call the plays and then described assistant head coach for the offense/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson as the "one, final voice."
Recent depositions of the Texas offensive coaches provide some further insight into the play-calling process in Austin, though things aren't necessarily any less muddled for it all.
Who called the plays in the Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas?
"I don't know," Strong said, claiming that he doesn't want to remember the game.
What percentage of the plays does Wickline call?
Strong doesn't know that, either.
Who takes charge of game planning?
"When I walk in the room, I get it started," said Watson.
How many plays are in the script the coaches use to start games?
Strong said 20. Watson said 25. Wickline said up to 30.
Who sends the plays to the sidelines?
Watson does, every play of every game, because "it can only come out of one mouth."
And, in the event of a tough decision, Strong said that Watson will make the call.
However, all three coaches claim that the division of labor places responsibility for the passing game on Watson and the running game on Wickline. So the claim from the Texas side is that every running call ultimately comes from Wickline, even if he doesn't actually make the call to the sideline.
The lawsuit ultimately raises more questions about the odd designation of titles. If Watson leads the game-planning sessions and is the "one, final voice" in play calls, sending each and every one of them down to the field from the press box, where the offensive coordinator typically resides, why is Wickline the offensive coordinator?
Was that what Strong sold him on when offering him the job? Wickline did turn down an offer from former head coach Mack Brown to become the offensive line coach at Texas after the 2010 season.
Or was the designation of Wickline as the offensive coordinator just a ploy to avoid paying Wickline's buyout?
It certainly looks that way as the staff bumbles along trying to describe that actually happens with the process. It's certainly the belief of Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder. Looking at it in a vacuum while stripping away all the current titles, it becomes difficult to argue that Wickline seems more like the offensive coordinator than Watson.
Sure, the Longhorns had paid about $7.6 million in buyouts at that time to get rid of Brown and bring Strong over from Louisville, but for the richest athletic department in the country, is it really worth going through all of this just to avoid paying out .36% of the revenues Texas sports generated in 2013?