Much Ado About Nothing

joe wicklineThis story has two of my favorite things: football and angry middle-aged white dudes. Two neighboring states, neither very fond of the other, accusing one another of lying. A bunch of lawyers, each staking claim to the moral high road. And who knows, maybe before it’s over we will hear from the rich old oil guy north of the border who probably has a strong opinion on the subject.

And, oh by the way, the two main players in this particular drama – the University of Texas and Oklahoma State University – play a football against one another in Stillwater in three weeks. The signs at the game alone will make this well worth the price of admission.

Maybe you’ve heard: Oklahoma State is claiming Texas offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Wickline owes buyout money – north of $593,000 – because his contract with the Cowboys stipulated that he must be the play-caller for any school that hired him away, otherwise he owes the money.

Wickline has counter-sued with something called tortious interference, which in layman’s terms means, “Yes, I do call plays, you’re trying to wreck my relationship with my current boss, and I don’t owe you a cent.”

Texas coach Charlie Strong probably didn’t help Wickline’s cause earlier this year when he said, basically, that both Wickline and Shawn Watson call plays for the Longhorns’ offense. This is a very clear example of “first world problems.”

Here’s the deal: Wickline in no way, shape or form wants to pay this kind of cash to the Cowboys. Watson has generally been seen as the primary play-caller, and his yearly salary is higher than Wickline’s (what that has to do with anything, I’m not sure, I’m just sayin’).

As for the big question – Who is calling plays for Texas? – that person is usually believed to be Watson. Not sure if “usually believed” will hold up in court, but that’s the situation. Reporters have asked the Texas coaches in the past about play-calling duties, and the answer is: “we collaborate” or some such.

Frankly, this story is more humorous than serious – praise the Lord – though Wickline probably isn’t smiling much. And the suits and countersuits and business suits could end it in about five minutes if folks on both sides would push their common sense buttons, provided they have one.

UT probably has $593,000 in a petty cash safe behind some picture of Bevo hanging on a wall in Belmont Hall, and Oklahoma State has T. Boone Pickens. Neither side is hurting for money. UT needs to reach into that safe, grab half of it, and give it to Red McCombs. Have Red’s people and T. Boone’s people call each other and arrange a meeting at the Red River. If anyone can solve a problem with cash and conversation, it’s Red and T. Boone.

Put them both in a canoe – provided there is still water in the Red River – and have them meet in the middle and exchange money. Invite photographers. OSU will have their money to help ease the pain of a horribly-written and extremely vague initial contract with Wickline. Wickline will be happy with the bump he’ll get in salary from UT to offset the money lost in the settlement, though the Longhorns will call it a “merit increase.” Strong will be happy that his words didn’t cost his offensive coordinator more than a half-million dollars, and Steve Patterson will be happy because it’ll give him more time to watch the running video loop of burnt orange jet-pack man on the TV in his office.

Mike Holder – the Oklahoma State athletic director and former golf coach – will be happy that he was able to take a little bite out of the Longhorns, though frankly, that kind of money is only worth a few thousand of those empty seats in the student section at DKR. Egos will be salvaged, and that’s very important here.

It’s all funny, of course, but it could get more serious if the people in charge at both places don’t realize they both have plenty of face to lose if they don’t settle. OSU knows the contract was vague; Texas knows that Watson is the primary play-caller. Strong knows he needs to concentrate on football.

It’s all so silly – Wickline took a better job in a better city in a better state at a better school with a better color of orange for more money. Seriously…

It’s an unnecessary distraction that needs to end, though for entertainment purposes, I’d rather everybody wait until after Nov. 15 to make nice.