At My Age, I Don’t Buy Small Trees

Thats quote from T. Boone Pickens, the 79 yr old multi-billionaire oilman and now, college philanthropist. He was responding to a question from Bernard (nobody cares about his politics) Goldman as to whether his 165 million dollar gift to Oklahoma State University was part of a 5 year plan to produce winning football teams. He’s saying that he wants to change things around fast, to see an immediate impact in the win/loss column.

Heres the deal. Pickens donated the 165 million to his alma mater for the purpose of building a Xanadu-like facility for the University’s athletes. Beautiful new stadium, 3 separate practice fields, training rooms equipped with latest and best of everything, including waterfalls, 72 inch LCD televisions and a fully stocked juice bar. The idea is that better facilities will attract better recruits, which will bring in more fans, who will give more money to the University.

His Management company is overseeing how the funds are disbursed, and charging no fee for doing so.

He “suggested” that the golf pro at the University be named Athletic Director. He was.

The new Stadium’s name? You guessed it, T. Boone Pickens Field.

Pickens has stated that the 165 million was essentially a ‘down payment”, and that he would spend “whatever it takes” to see Oklahoma State University become a college football powerhouse.

I’ll start by saying that I believe the man has the right to spend his money however he pleases.

That said, I’m wondering what a 165 million dollar investment in say, the science department might have produced in a few years? Perhaps a cure for the common cold? A cure for AIDS? How about a totally clean and abundant fuel?

Also, Mr. Pickens has said that if the time came to pick a new University President, he would “definitely be involved.” Has he purchased this right?

There are a handful of professors and students that are opposing his efforts, (I love their chances) but its an understatement to say that they are a tiny minority in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

I’m of the opinion that if he gave the money with no strings attached, I have no problem with it, though I would have been impressed with matching funds for some other departments. Right now, I’m wondering how long before the team mascot is morphed from Cowboy to say, Roughneck? Will the school someday be known as T. Boone U. ® ?

What say you?

H/T:  The best show on TV, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “At My Age, I Don’t Buy Small Trees

  1. Wow. It does make you kind of think they may have sold their souls to the devil. On the other hand, if he’s funding the athletic department, presumably that frees up funds for other departments.

    At least, I guess, one can hope.

  2. nm

    B, that never happens. Quite the opposite, in fact. You’ll notice that he gave money for buildings and facilities, not for staff. And this new facility will require additional staff to fill up. And I’m pretty sure that the AD will need a new, higher, salary to feel right in this situation. So the academic budget will be cut in order to pay people in the athletic department. Which somehow will fail to include tutors or academic counselors, you just watch. And the pressure on the academic staff to give the players passing grades for no work will ratchet up just a little (since the athletic department is now worth so much money and the players are therefore so additionally valuable), and this this is OSU it’s already pretty high, and a couple more adjuncts will have to choose between academic integrity and losing their jobs. (Lest that last sentence seem a bit bitter, please be aware that I have never taught at a school where adjuncts were fired for such a reason — blandished heavily, yes, but not fired — but I’ve heard stories.)

  3. Then factor in the argument (often cited at UGA) that the alumni association brings in money; something they won’t do unless “THE TEAM” is winning.

    The libertarian in me can’t help but say, “It’s his money, he can throw it away”, but it IS such a waste.

    Reminds me of when some eccentric leaves millions to their cat, or Anna Nicole Smith.

  4. democommie

    This would be the same T. Boone Pickens who has made a lot of his money by looting the pension funds of companies he bought? I think it would also be the same T.B. Pickens who funded the Swift Boat Vets for Lying Their Asses Off. Swell guy.

  5. nm

    Ex, the problem with the alumni association argument is that the AA decides, each year, where all the contributions will go, and when the donations have increased because of sports, they often decide to direct the donations to something sports-related.

  6. Also, Mr. Pickens has said that if the time came to pick a new University President, he would “definitely be involved.” Has he purchased this right?

    No he certainly has NOT purchased that right!

    I agree that Pickens is within his rights to donate money however and wherever he pleases, and since a fool and his money are soon parted, I can’t say I’m surprised his priority is athletics. But that’s his business.

    But the expectation of some kind of “quid pro quo” — ESP. since this is a state school — is offensive. You do not “buy” your way into picking the next university president, I don’t care WHO you are.

    This is why the Libertarian ideal of the “free hand of the market” is so painfully wrong. Money ALWAYS has strings attached when it comes from the wallet of a rich person who thinks he’s entitled to shit.

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