If there was any doubt that University of Houston’s Ed Oliver was going to leave the program for the NFL, it was squashed on Thursday night. Coach Major Applewhite told Oliver that he wasn’t allowed to wear a specific heavy black coat on the sideline during the team’s game against Tulane because the defensive lineman wasn’t playing. The issue eventually escalated and spilled over to the halftime walk into locker room, with Oliver’s teammates having to hold him back from the coach.
Oliver did not return from the team’s locker room after halftime.
It’s worth noting that Oliver has missed the last four games because of an injury he suffered to his right knee against Navy on Oct. 20. One could speculate that Applewhite’s frustration towards Oliver goes beyond the coat and has mainly to do with the player’s choice to sit out and rest for the remainder of the season in preparation for the NFL draft. It wouldn’t be consistent with the message the coach gave to reporters, however. At his weekly press conference on Monday, he said that Oliver did indeed want to play tonight, but the coach insisted that the lineman focused on his own health.
“Ed wants to play, but you have to be cautious,” Applewhite said Monday at his weekly news conference. “What I told Ed this week was, ‘You go and get healthy.’ What we don’t need to do is take reps and then something happens in which we can’t play. Let’s just get healthy, then once we’re healthy and we feel like we can play and the doctors agree, then you can come join the team.”
Another possibility is that it could be Oliver who’s at the heart of this incident. The idea that a nationally recognized star overreacted to a coach’s order he didn’t agree with isn’t hard to grasp. But that would also require one to discount Oliver’s original choice to play for his local college football program he felt so close to instead of going to a Power Five school, and his other acts of selflessness, to immediately jump to that conclusion.
Maybe it was just about a coat.
Update, Nov. 16 12:55 a.m. ET: Good news, everyone. Applewhite has forgiven Oliver for his transgression and thinks “he’ll be fine.”