Friday, April 11, 2008

T. Boone Pickens University at Stillwater

Is Oklahoma State trying to become the Chelsea of college athletics? Ever since T. Boone Pickens (and shouldn't his name just be T. Bone Pickens anyway?) started throwing around his private equity firm money, OSU has spent outrageously to try to give the Cowboy athletic programs an edge. From renovating and renaming the football stadium (now aptly Boone Pickens Stadium) to throwing around NBA-like numbers trying to lure Bill Self away from Kansas, this money is being used to advertise the school as a top notch destination for athletes and coaches alike.

There are several problems with this, not the least of which is the degree to which the athletics department is now handcuffed to the man himself. Can the AD really choose which coach he'd like next, or does the will of Mr. Pickens control the decisions that are made? This seems like a terrible arrangement, not just for the AD personally, but just in general for the whole school. Really rich guys trying to help make day-to-day decisions in areas for which they have no expertise has proven to be a disaster in many instances (see Angelos, Peter).

The other major issue with this kind of operation is the fact that no matter how nice the stadium, training facilities, locker rooms, paychecks for coaches, etc., Oklahoma State University is still located in Stillwater, OK. Let me repeat, Stillwater, Oklahoma. No matter how much money you pour into the school, Stillwater will never be a place that is attractive.

Now, I think it's a good thing for a patron to dump tons of money into the educational side of a college institution, as Mr. Pickens has done with the Geology Department in particular. Great benefits arise from an influx of money in the form of additional scholarship money, revamped buildings and lab spaces and extending the usually limited budgets of collegiate academic departments. But let's not pretend that those types of benefits translate to the playing fields.

Mr. Pickens should be more constructive with his funds and try to turn Oklahoma State into a premier academic institution. We love sports at the AD Hall but also realize that an unlimited budget is not what makes athletic programs better, at least not that alone. Allowing family succession in one major sport and allowing this guy to ever speak in public in another are canceling out the benefits of additional funding in the public sphere anyway.

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