Oklahoma State booster and stadium namesake T. Boone Pickens dies

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T. Boone Pickens (R) watches Oklahoma State's pro day with coach Mike Gundy in 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
T. Boone Pickens (R) watches Oklahoma State's pro day with coach Mike Gundy in 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma State booster and energy businessman T. Boone Pickens died Wednesday. He was 91.

Pickens’ name is on Oklahoma State’s football stadium and, according to the Dallas Morning News, he will be buried at the school’s golf course.

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The money he donated to the school’s athletic department is more than any other single person has ever given to a university athletic department. He gave $165 million in a single donation in 2005 that was then invested into a hedge fund with waived management fees that he controlled.

That $165 million helped pay for renovations to the stadium that has had his name on it since 2003. His donations have also paid for upgraded facilities for numerous other Oklahoma State sports teams.

The OSU school of Geology also has his name. The former CEO of Mesa Petroleum reportedly donated over $1 billion of his fortune to various causes throughout his lifetime, and more than half of that has gone to Oklahoma State in various capacities.

“The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride. It will never be the same again,” Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement. “We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university. He gave us everything he had and all that he asked in return was that we play by the rules and dream big. He was living proof that anything is possible if you’re wearing orange. ‘Great ride, Cowboy, great ride!’”

He also had a hot and cold relationship with current Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy during Gundy’s tenure with the school. In 2016, Pickens famously told the Austin American-Statesman that Gundy didn’t handle personal relationships very well, though the two appeared to be on good terms in recent years.

Pickens tweeted the letter of support he wrote to Gundy in November of 2017 after the Cowboys had lost to Oklahoma.

“Mr. Pickens is a big part of our success and we’re all thankful for the lasting impact he’s had on Oklahoma State, both athletically and academically,” Gundy said in a statement. “It would have been difficult for us to climb as high as we have without him. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has had a greater impact on a university than Mr. Pickens has had at Oklahoma State. He’ll be missed, but his legacy here will live on for a long time to come.”

‘I’m in it to win it’

Pickens published a letter to Oklahoma State fans on his website about his hopes and desires for the 2019 Oklahoma State football season. He said “I’m in it to win it” and his first goal was a Big 12 title followed by a College Football Playoff berth.

He then detailed the why of his giving to the school.

“I’m heavily invested in Oklahoma State,” Pickens wrote. “Sometimes I forget what all I’ve given over the years. In the spirit of tying up loose ends, and setting the record straight, I called OSU the other day to get a total giving number. The total now stands at $652 million, a number boosted by a series of unpublicized gifts over the past 10 years. I have a unique approach to giving. While many others of my status endow foundations that spin out millions of dollars over the course of generations, I want to see the good that’s done with my money today, while I’m alive, and not wonder what is done with it long after I’m gone. OSU’s athletic director, Mike Holder, has been a good steward of my funds on the athletic side of the ledger, as has OSU President Burns Hargis been on the academic side.”

“Unquestionably, $652 million is a lot, and there are no doubt critics out there who would champion it going for broader, societal issues. I’m satisfied with my giving. I don’t want a bigger suite or a better parking spot. Or yet another honorary degree. I want championships across the board. I hope you understand why, and I hope we get them while I can still savor the victories.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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