Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver is one of the best players in college football, but he hasn’t been seen on the field for the last few games due to a knee injury. He was once again out of action Thursday night with Houston hosting Tulane, and like any player roaming the sideline on a chilly night, he was just looking for a way to stay warm. But apparently he was seen wearing a coat that he wasn’t supposed to be wearing.
Toward the end of the first half of Thursday night’s game, Houston head coach Major Applewhite walked over to Oliver and told him to remove the coat he was wearing. The coat was apparently one reserved for players actually playing in the game. After removing the jacket, Oliver was clearly not pleased as the teams made their way to the locker room. The defensive lineman had to be held back from Applewhite a bit as he appeared to be having a verbal exchange with the head coach of the Cougars.
Oliver wasn’t seen emerging from the locker room after halftime, although Applewhite told ESPN sideline reporter Laura Rutledge he was more welcome to come join the team on the sideline if he chose to do so. Applewhite also confirmed the jacket was one only players who are playing were allowed to wear.
This all begs the question of just how much tension there is within the Houston program with Oliver and his continued absence. His injury was certainly legitimate, so missing some time was acceptable and to be expected. But what may kick up some dust within the program is seeing Oliver moving around the way he was in pregame warmups and then not playing in the game.
There’s no NCAA rule about the wearing of jackets on the sideline. This is a Houston team rule, and Oliver should be expected to obide by the team rules whether he’s playing or not for as long as he’s officially associated with the program. Applewhite appeared to be doing nothing more than enforcing a team rule he expects all players to follow, whether they’re players not on scholarship or a potential top five draft pick.
At the same time, one has to wonder if this is how Oliver’s run at Houston comes to an end. It won’t impact where he goes in the NFL Draft, mind you, but it would be a shame to see the most talented player ever recruited by Houston go out like this, barking at the head coach over the removal of a sideline jacket.
Maybe cooler heads will prevail on both sides of this and Oliver will get a chance to play at least one more game for Houston. But at this point, is there really much reason to risk playing again for him? Like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Oliver shut his college career down without playing another down, although he did reportedly say he intended to be back next week for a road game at Memphis.