Oil executive T. Boone Pickens made the largest gift to an athletic department in the history of the NCAA in 2005 when he pledged $165 million to Oklahoma State. Pickens, who passed away on Wednesday, transformed the Oklahoma State football program into a powerhouse with his record gift.
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The gift, the efforts of repeated attempts by the athletic department to get Pickens to make a transformational donation to fund improvements around the football team, changed the face of the department. Since his donation, the Cowboys have finished the season ranked in the polls seven times and won nine bowl games.
In the previous seven seasons before Pickens rolled out his donation, Oklahoma State had just three winning seasons and just one bowl game win. The changes to the stadium, which at the time was one of the worst in college football, created a buzz around the program.
Recruiting, the lifeblood of any college football program, picked up after Boone pledged to transform the team’s facility. Armed with a flashy new stadium and significantly upgraded facilities, Oklahoma State turned into one of the better programs in the nation. His gift, in part, helped to add 10,000 seats to the stadium, luxury boxes and other renovations connected to the football facility. The Cowboys football home, aptly named Boone Pickens Stadium after his donation, is a cutting-edge facility that is unrecognizable since the donation.
Pickens managed the fund for his donation and saw it grow to $400 million just a couple of years later. Even with the economic downturn of 2008, Pickens provided additional funds to ensure that the athletic department continued its facility upgrades.
The football stadium that bears his name has seen a transformation over the years. New locker rooms, offices for the coaching staff, a speed and conditioning center as well as locker rooms have all been a fundamental part of the 20-year masterplan funded by Pickens’ gift.
All told, Pickens reportedly has given over $500 million to Oklahoma State.