[Vision2020] A Bone to Pick With Boone

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Fri Sep 8 12:22:31 PDT 2006

>From the "Life of Reilly" column by Rick Reilly, of the September 8, 2006
Sports Illustrated -


A Bone to Pick With Boone
By Rick reilly

At Oklahoma State, they're feeling luckier than a fat man locked inside a
Hostess factory. That's because the World's Biggest Booster -- T. Boone
Pickens -- wrote them the sweetest check in the history of the NCAA: $165

It will go mostly for the two biggest sports in Stillwater: football and
football practicing. OSU can finally spruce up Boone Pickens Stadium (it's
been almost two years since Pickens paid for the last improvements) and redo
the outdoor practice field and build a $50 million practice bubble. The rest
will go to some other piddly stuff to keep the liberal-arts majors happy --
tennis, baseball, track, field, equestrian and soccer. 

(Like Pickens is ever going to a soccer game. He'd vote for Hillary first.) 

All told, since it was built, Oklahoma State will have spent almost half a
billion bones on its stadium, which is about what it would cost to build the
Taj Mahal, which, if I'm understanding this right, doesn't even have

Of course, you might be saying to yourself, With all the suffering in the
world, doesn't Pickens have better things to do with his cash than give it
to a football team? 

To which any OSU fan might say: Well, we went 4-7 last season. Isn't that

Some buzzkillers point out that Pickens doesn't have to look much beyond
Stillwater to find needs greater than a new massage table for the locker
room. Oklahoma ranks in the bottom third of all states in infant death,
child health insurance coverage and child neglect. And one out of seven
Oklahomans is at risk of going hungry. 

But if you want to talk hungry, how about this: Oklahoma State has had only
one Big Eight or Big 12 football title in the last 50 years. A little
winning might just hit the spot. 

"We're goin' to go to that BCS championship game one day," vows Pickens (OSU
'51). "And we're goin' to keep on goin'." 

It's a very bad idea to bet against Pickens. When he was born in
Holdenville, Okla., he was the first C-section performed in the town's
history. Just try to keep him out of something. When he's asked why he gave
all that money to football, he says, "'Cause I want to. That's the blood,
guts and feathers of it." 

Besides, Pickens has given away a fortune to nonfootball causes: Texas
Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in his hometown of Dallas ($8 million),
Katrina victims ($7 million), UT Southwestern Medical Center ($2 million)
and the T. Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State ($1 million),
to name a few. But this last check makes those look like Monopoly money. 

"I saw an urgent situation that needed big dollars," Pickens says. "And I
stepped up to it." 

O.K., so maybe your definition of urgent runs more along the lines of
famine, tsunamis and disease, but good luck changing Pickens's mind. It's
like talking to a hurricane. This is the infamous corporate raider who tried
to buy Gulf Oil without Gulf Oil wanting him to and wound up with a silo of

Pickens, 78, is larger than life. This summer a freshman defensive end was
coming off the field when he was introduced to the great man. The kid's eyes
went wide as spaghetti plates. "Oh my God!" the kid said. "I thought you
were dead!" 

Maybe a few wished he were when this recent donation hit, because it's going
to mean that about 250 families will have to be relocated to make room for
the new, colossal athletic complex. But, hey, it's not like Oklahoma State
doesn't have a heart. The university is paying people a $300 bonus for every
year they lived in their house before the bulldozers come. Sure, Aunt Ida,
you've been forced out of the home you raised your kids in, but won't that
$6,000 be nice? 

Some people think they ought to name the whole school after Pickens. Boone
Pickens University. Well why not? He's handpicked the athletic director, the
football coach, everything up to the curtains in the suites. Plus, all the
money he donates to the school goes straight back into his wildly successful
BP Capital energy hedge fund. Which means he gives the money with one hand,
manages it with the other and decides how to spend it with, I don't know,
his teeth? 

Robert Darcy, a poli-sci professor at Oklahoma State, says the tail is not
just wagging the dog, it's swinging the dog around like a lasso. "We have
[school] departments in basements, dorms, attics and condemned buildings,"
Darcy says. "This university is underfunded in every imaginable way. And yet
the only concern here continues to be football." 

O.K. So what's your point?


Remind you of another university?

Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Vandalville, Idaho

"Only by going too far can one possibly find out how far one can go." 

- Jon Dyer 

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