Oklahoma State athletic projects affected by donor losses, on hold

Updated: October 22, 2008, 9:03 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma State University officials cheered when oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens gave a record-setting gift of $165 million to his alma mater two years ago for athletic programs and then invested it in his BP Capital hedge fund so that it would grow even more.

But now the fund has dropped so low amid the national economic downturn that university officials won't say how much is left and the fancy athletic village it was supposed to pay for has been put on hold.

Pickens himself has lost "well in excess of $1 billion" as oil and natural gas prices have plummeted, said Jay Rosser, Pickens' spokesman.

In 2007, Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder trumpeted growth in the school's athletic facilities construction fund. Pickens' generous contribution, together with other donations and market appreciation, had allowed the fund to mushroom to $288 million.

OSU spokesman Gary Shutt on Wednesday declined to say how much is left.

"Construction on facilities in the athletic village area will begin when the economic climate improves," Shutt said. "Like all investors in these uncertain times, we are exploring all options as we consider our future plans."

Shutt said he couldn't specify what those options are.

Pickens, whose fortune was pegged by Forbes magazine at $3 billion in 2007, had hoped investing his money and contributions from others into BP Capital would provide enough money to cover the costs of the athletic village.

The project is expected to include a new indoor practice facility, stadiums for baseball and softball and venues for baseball, tennis, soccer, equestrian and track and field.

Work on the west end zone project of the football stadium, named Boone Pickens Stadium after its benefactor, continues and remains on target for completion in 2009.

Rosser said the company is no different than "any other industry, business or household in America."

"We've been hit hard by the economic downturn," Rosser said.

Rosser said the company is in contact with the school and they're "working together" on the funding issue, but he referred questions about the fund's value to Oklahoma State officials.

Oil prices fell below $67 a barrel on Wednesday, 55 percent from its peak of $147.27 in mid-July.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press