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Jenni Carlson: OSU's biggest gift was a ‘meatball' named Boone Pickens

by Jenni Carlson Published: August 10, 2011

If not for a fifth year of high school and a rescinded basketball scholarship, Boone Pickens might have his name on a different college football stadium.

Texas Tech's.

As it is, his millions went to Oklahoma State, his name is on the Cowboys' stadium and his orange-tinted fingerprints can be seen all over Stillwater. The billionaire's investment in his alma mater not only transformed OSU athletics but also altered the state's sports landscape.

Because of that, Pickens is going into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He will formally take his spot among our state's greatest athletes and coaches during next week's induction ceremony.

“It's a big deal,” Pickens said of his induction. “Sure it is.”

He smiled a bit.

“Not being an athlete.”

While Pickens isn't a Hall of Famer because of his athletic career, it is what ultimately led him to OSU.

It was also what nearly took him to Texas Tech, a little-known story that could've caused big-time ramifications.

Born in Holdenville, Pickens spent his childhood in the southeastern Oklahoma town. After his sophomore year of high school, though, his family moved to Amarillo. The oil boom had ended in Oklahoma, and his father, a landman, could get work in Texas.

Pickens had played basketball all his life and had even been on the varsity as a sophomore in Holdenville, but under Texas high school transfer rules, he had to sit out a year. When he finally became eligible, he became a starter.

He was then offered a scholarship to play basketball at Texas Tech.

Going to college just down the road in Lubbock? Staying near Amarillo to play ball? It seemed perfect.

But because of his age — Pickens was young for his class — he was able to get an extra year of high school under Texas rules. He decided to turn down Texas Tech's offer and return to Amarillo High for a fifth year.

“I had two senior years,” he said, a little smile playing on his face.

That second senior year, Pickens and his Amarillo High teammates were stout. They made it all the way to the state semifinals in 1947, where they met up with San Antonio Jefferson. That was a squad led by Kyle Rote, who would become an All-American for the SMU football team, then play 11 years in the NFL.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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