Oil tycoon and influential Oklahoma State athletic booster T. BOONE PICKENS has died at 91 after his health "had been an issue" since December '16, according to a front-page piece by Bill Haisten of the TULSA WORLD. Pickens' total lifetime benevolence "amounts to slightly more" than $1B, and "roughly half of that money went to his alma mater." OSU AD MIKE HOLDER in a statement said, "We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university." Pickens' gifts to the school were split between academics and athletics, but the "most famous single donation" was the $165M he gave to the athletic department in '06. With that money, along with "subsequent donations from Pickens and others, there was an extensive renovation of the Cowboys' football venue." Since '03, OSU has played home games at Boone Pickens Stadium (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). CNBC's Jim Cramer said if "every school had a backer like Boone, we would have such a great educational system in this country" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 9/12).
GIVING BACK: USA TODAY's Steve Gardner noted Pickens "made his fortune in the oil and gas industries, but he saved his greatest passion" for OSU and its sports programs. His $165M gift to the athletic department is "among the largest to any university's sports program in collegiate history." OSU football coach MIKE GUNDY tweeted that it "would have been difficult for the Cowboys to have climbed as high as they have without Pickens." The football team will "pay tribute to Pickens with a helmet decal players will wear for the rest of the season" (USA TODAY, 9/11). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton notes as an athletic donor, "maybe only Nike co-founder PHIL KNIGHT at Oregon has exceeded Pickens for impact on a single school" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/12).
GRIDIRON GLORY: The TULSA WORLD's Haisten notes Pickens will "forever be celebrated by Oklahoma State people as the man whose generosity was a driving force in the transformation of Cowboys football." The team "wouldn't play in such a beautiful stadium -- or have such a striking and spacious locker room -- if not for Pickens" (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). In Oklahoma City, Scott Wright notes the upgrages at Boone Pickens Stadium "coincided with Gundy's work to rebuild the football program, and the timing couldn't have been better." What had been "nothing more than an overgrown high school stadium became the crown jewel of the OSU campus and a symbol of change in how athletic facilities would be viewed at the school" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/12). ESPN.com's Jake Trotter noted before Pickens' largest donation, OSU football had "reached double-digit wins only three times in their history" (ESPN.com, 9/11). In Stillwater, Jason Elmquist notes Pickens and Gundy had "times of conflict over the years," but they also "understood the importance of one another to the success of the football program." The "usual mediator between the two" was Holder, who was "influential in getting Pickens to buy into the vision of an illustrious athletic department" (STILLWATER NEWS PRESS, 9/12).
COWBOY FOREVER: In Tulsa, Frank Bonner notes a piece of Pickens' legacy will "always be about him helping the Cowboys win on the field, but he went out of his way to treat players like family" (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). In Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson in a front-page piece writes Pickens "didn't just alter the landscape of his alma mater," he also "transformed the psyche." Pickens rarely made an appearance "on a national show to talk business without giving a shoutout to OSU" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/12). Also in Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes under the header, "Boone Pickens Found A Sense Of Community With Oklahoma State" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/12).