UPDATE: Applewhite and Oliver have released statements addressing Thursday night’s confrontation. Their full text can be read at the bottom of this post.
A college football head coach and his best player getting into a heated argument is usually a tough enough story for the team, but Ed Oliver carried some extra intrigue during a confrontation with Houston coach Major Applewhite on Thursday.
The 20-year-old Oliver, widely considered to be a top 5 prospect for the upcoming NFL draft, got into it with Applewhite on the sidelines of the Cougars’ game against Tulane on Thursday. The apparent cause for the argument: Oliver wearing a warm jacket.
Major Applewhite and Ed Oliver disagree over jacket
Applewhite can be seen pulling a down jacket off of Oliver and lecturing the defensive tackle in a video captured by ESPN, followed by a livid Oliver screaming at Applewhite and being pulled away as the team runs to the locker room at halftime.
Ed Oliver might prefer to wear a jacket this evening. Atleast he didn’t grab his crotch. pic.twitter.com/MXJfl4mpkc
— Eddie Radosevich (@Eddie_Rado) November 16, 2018
Oliver had been ruled out for the game, his fourth straight miss, due to a bruised right knee, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Joseph Duarte.
After his argument with Applewhite, Oliver reportedly did not return to the field with the Cougars following halftime.
Elsewhere, Houston DT Ed Oliver went off on Major Applewhite because Applewhite said he wasn't allowed to wear a jacket on the sideline that is reserved for active players.
Oliver went into the locker room with the team at the half and has not returned to the field.
— Shehan Jeyarajah (@ShehanJeyarajah) November 16, 2018
Suffice to say, the head coach of a college football team pulling a jacket off of his best player is a bizarre look, and it only got weirder when Applewhite revealed the impetus for his decision was a belief that being cold on the sidelines makes players tougher.
Major Applewhite justifies taking Ed Oliver’s jacket off
Applewhite addressed the spat after the game, saying he had a rule that only players participating in games are allowed to wear jackets on the sideline.
“We just have a rule on the sideline that guys that are participating in the games, and specifically starters, they have jackets so they can stay cool,” Applewhite said in a video captured by Duarte. “As a coach who has coached and played for years, you don’t want 1,000 guys in a jacket when it’s only 50 degrees outside. You want guys to stand up, get off the bench and be tough.”
Houston-area weather stayed around the 50-degree range during the game, part of a cold snap that has hit the area recently. Applewhite went on to say that he only took Oliver’s jacket off to be fair. He later declined to say whether it was his or Oliver’s decision for the star to stay in the locker room at halftime.
“Some guys had them early on, I asked our equipment staff to take them off,” Applewhite said. “Ed had one, and I asked him to take it off because I didn’t want to be unfair and unequal to the other guys and he got emotional. He’s young, that’s what happens.”
You’ll never believe it, but Applewhite said he has already forgiven his two-time All-American and that he believes in second chances.
Major on Ed Oliver: ‘We’re all young. I don’t blame him. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. We all need a second chance. He’ll do great and he’ll be fine.’
— Joseph Duarte (@Joseph_Duarte) November 16, 2018
The notable second chance of Applewhite’s career is when he was able to stay on as offensive coordinator at Texas and later take the Houston job despite getting caught engaging in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student,” which definitely seems comparable to wanting to be warm during a cold football game.
Tension between Ed Oliver and Major Applewhite?
Oliver’s status at Houston was already intriguing even before his coach’s fashion tips, as he has given NFL teams all the proof they should need to spend a top draft pick on him.
The former five-star recruit has been among the sport’s most dominant athletes since he stepped onto the field in Houston, accruing 13.5 sacks, 52 tackles for loss and 10 pass deflections while playing the interior in 31 career games. The 292-pound Oliver is a two-time consensus All-American and has won the AAC Defensive Player of the Year award as well the Outland Trophy. Even though he faced talent a step below what elite NFL talent usually faces, Oliver has done everything you could reasonably expect an elite talent to do.
That amount of sheer ability, as well as the competition he faces, gives Oliver plenty of incentive to pull a Nick Bosa and withdraw from Houston to begin prep for the NFL. Missing four straight games has ramped up such speculation, as well as a tweet he posted on Wednesday, alluding that he “gave” all in his college career.
I gave all I had so there’d be nuthing to lose pic.twitter.com/Q8Vei2ZvGS
Clearly, Oliver has plenty of incentive to stay on the sidelines as Houston competes for the AAC title. It’s hard to justify risking millions of dollars when your team could be headed to something like the Sun Bowl, for all you know.
An ugly argument with the team’s head coach over something as small as a jacket isn’t going to dampen that speculation.
Oliver and Applewhite release statements
“Ed is a passionate human being, and that is why he is the best player in the country. Last night was not indicative of his character and it was a passionate moment within our program. We can, and we will, both learn from this situation as we move forward together.”
“Last night is not who I am. I’m very passionate about the game of football and last night there was a misunderstanding. I was caught in an emotional moment. I have the utmost respect for Coach Applewhite and I appreciate the support of Coach Applewhite and my teammates during this time. I love my brothers, my team and my city and I’m looking forward to moving forward with them together. Go Coogs!”
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