Pickens sets record with $165M Oklahoma State gift

Updated: January 10, 2006, 3:47 PM ET
Associated Press

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Billionaire alumnus Boone Pickens will donate $165 million to Oklahoma State, the largest single gift given to an NCAA athletic program.

POWER OF THE BOOSTERS
Oklahoma State football
There isn't a bigger OSU flag-waver than Boone Pickens, who's name is on the school's stadium.

It's a love-hate relationship that binds a college and its boosters. They are often the first ones pointed to when recruiting violations surface. And the first ones called upon when facilities need an upgrade. With their money comes their two cents. Some call it influence. Others say it's meddling. ESPN.com examines the role of the college booster:

TUESDAY
• Money talks: Giving $100 million to his alma mater does more than get Boone Pickens' name on OSU's football stadium, it buys him decision-making influence.
• Just do it! It's not just a Nike catch phrase, it's heady advice in dealing with billionaire philanthropist Phil Knight, who lords his money over his alma mater.
• Corporate $upport: Joe Malugen didn't graduate from Troy University, but he saw the giant-killing football team as a marketing vehicle for his company.

WEDNESDAY
• Wave of support: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, Tulane's athletes have served as roving ambassadors for the storm-ravaged university.
• The high price of supply-and-demand: The face value of a seat at a college football game is but a fraction of its real cost, thanks to mandatory donations tied to ticket sales.

THURSDAY
• A Tiger of a trustee: He may be slight of frame, but none throws his weight around like the Most Powerful Booster in college sports.
• Power Brokers: The power to pull strings isn't always decided by those with the fattest wallets in ESPN.com's top-10 list of college boosters.

ALSO
• Boosters Gone Wild: Deep pockets, dirty deals and death threats make for college football's "most unhealthy rivalry."

"This isn't just about football or basketball or our major sports," athletic director Mike Holder said Tuesday. "It's about every sport, giving every coach here and every athlete here the opportunity to strive for excellence."

The amount surpasses the $100 million Las Vegas casino owner Ralph Engelstad gave the University of North Dakota in 1998. Only half that sum was initially intended to build a hockey arena, but the project eventually consumed the entire gift.

Pickens' donation is aimed at creating an athletic village north of the football stadium that already bears the name of the 77-year-old Texas oil tycoon. The money will go toward completing the upgrade of Boone Pickens Stadium and fund changes in a 20-year master plan yet to be approved by university regents.

The plan, with an estimated cost exceeding $700 million, includes an indoor practice facility for football, baseball, track and other sports as well as upgraded facilities for track, tennis and soccer. There also are such projects as a new research building and new classroom building and improvements to other academic facilities.

"It'll impact the whole university," Oklahoma State president David Schmidly said. "It'll make it easier for us to recruit students, it'll help us recruit faculty. Every aspect of the university is going to benefit from this."

Pickens gained fame in the 1980s by attempting takeovers of several major oil companies and is now the chairman of BP Capital, an investment group. He was listed in a tie for 207th on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans last year with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

Pickens, who earned a degree in geology from Oklahoma State in 1951, also made the largest previous donation in Oklahoma State history. In 2003, he pledged $70 million to the school, including $20 million for an array of improvements to the football stadium.

"What I keep coming back to is we're in the Big 12 and it's a tough conference. I want us to be competitive," Pickens said. "How it impacts me? My name's on the stadium. I don't know what else they could do. I guess they could put it on each one of the seats."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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