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Pickens donates $165M to OSU athletics

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Oklahoma State University officials announced Tuesday that legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens has donated $165 million to fund one of the nation’s most comprehensive collegiate athletic complexes during the next five to 10 years.

Pickens’ gift is the largest single donation for athletics to an institution of higher education in U.S. history.

“My passion for OSU has only intensified over the years as I recognize the link between my education and my success,” said Pickens, 77. “I believe that developing teams that are competitive in all sports requires the best facilities possible. Developing those facilities will help move the university into a new era, both in athletics and academics. Athletics have proven to be a significant contributor in the academic success of an institution, both from a fundraising and a performance perspective.”

Pickens said a broader base of alumni financial support for OSU is a key element of long-term success.

“We are in a new era, and I want to see all alums be a part of it,” he said.

Pickens earned a degree in geology from OSU in 1951. He went on to found Mesa Petroleum, which he grew into one of the nation’s largest independent oil and gas firms in his four decades of leadership there. He left the company in 1996 to found BP Capital, an energy investment firm consistently ranked as one of the most successful hedge funds in the U.S.

Pickens’ gift will help build the west end zone at Boone Pickens Stadium, a multi-purpose indoor practice complex, new soccer, track and tennis facilities, a new equestrian center, a new baseball stadium and new outdoor practice fields.

OSU System CEO and President David Schmidly said the gift is an essential complement to the school’s strategic plan, “Achieving Greatness,” which calls for spending about $500 million on various academic, student life and related initiatives.

“This is a truly remarkable gift,” Schmidly said. “Mr. Pickens’ $165 million donation to our athletic program is a critical component of our three-pronged approach to developing a top-tier university. Athletics, academics, and student life must all fit together to build a competitive institution.

“We’re pleased with Boone’s confidence in the leadership of the athletic program and the university, and that he believes so strongly in the overall direction of our institution.”

Pickens has supported OSU athletics and academics, having previously contributed and pledged more than $100 million. Recognizing his academic and athletic gifts, the OSU School of Geology and the university’s football stadium are named in his honor.

Pickens is rapidly earning status as one of America’s greatest philanthropists. His nonprofit gifts in 2005, including his latest OSU contribution, total about $230 million. Of that, OSU's giving in 2005 was $190 million. Other major recipients of his giving include the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Boone is a winner with a vision and high expectations,” OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder said. “It’s now up to us to deliver. His gifts are an inspiration to all Cowboy followers. It is imperative that all Cowboy alumni contribute at a greater level than ever before, and we are dedicating ourselves to making that happen.”

“This is indeed a historic day for Oklahoma State,” said OSU Board of Regents Chairman Burns Hargis.  “On behalf of OSU and the OSU Board of Regents, we want to say thank you to Mr. Pickens for his indescribable generosity and commitment to OSU.  His example the past few years has inspired others to support OSU’s academic and athletic initiatives.”

Big 12 Conference Commissioner Kevin Weiberg congratulated OSU and commended the university's leadership and athletic department for this historic announcement.

"The Big 12 Conference enjoys celebrating success whenever one of our member institutions achieves a significant goal," Weiberg said. "We are pleased a Big 12 institution is the recipient of the largest single gift ever given to an NCAA collegiate athletic program. Big 12 institutions are fortunate to have committed donors who generously support their programs. You cannot be a championship program on a consistent basis without solid financial support. Oklahoma State is blessed to have a donor like Boone Pickens who is willing to invest at an extraordinary level.”

OSU soccer coach Karen Hancock said the coaches appreciate Pickens’ support.

“This gift means a lot to me personally because it will enable us to build the championship soccer facilities to support our student-athletes," she said. "On behalf of the coaches, we say thank you, Mr. Pickens, and we hope this unprecedented gift will lead to more OSU supporters giving to academic and athletic programs.” 

OSU’s athletic projects

The total cost of the proposed OSU athletic facilities is currently projected to be about $300 million, which includes architectural fees and land acquisition. Those projects, their estimated costs and proposed timelines, include:

  • New outdoor practice fields; $6 million; completed by 2007. 
  • Closing in of the west end zone at Boone Pickens Stadium; $120 million; completed by 2008.
  • A new equestrian center; $4 million; completed by 2008.
  • Construction of a multi-purpose indoor practice complex; $50 million; completed by 2009.
  • A new soccer/track complex; $30 million; completed by 2009.
  • New tennis facilities; $15 million; completed by 2009.
  • A new baseball stadium; $30 million; completed by 2011.
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