The Oklahoma State megabooster is never short on opinions. Before speaking Wednesday at the Jim Thorpe Association's October Leadership Luncheon, Pickens dished on everything from conference realignment to Mike Gundy's salary.
Conference realignment is bubbling up again. You liked the addition of TCU to the Big 12. What about the possibility of West Virginia?
Well, I've got to be convinced on West Virginia. I haven't seen anything on the school. But TCU was easy. That was like coming home.
What are your concerns about West Virginia?
Morgantown … as I remember, you've got to fly into Pittsburgh and then drive a couple hours. That's pretty isolated.
You've always favored the Big 12. If it survives, does it matter what form it's in?
To me, you go out here to West Virginia, you're going to go a long way. I didn't like the Pac-10 for that reason. I feel like in the Pac-10, you're going to end up in an east division and end up playing the schools you played before. So why not just hold the Big 12 together? I still believe we can save the Big 12, but I say that Texas is going to have to look like the rest of us in the Big 12 instead of looking like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I don't like that. As long as there's a difference between what Texas has and what the rest of us have, it's going to be a problem every year until you finally go to an equal conference.
There's been talk of a conference television network. Would that be good for OSU?
Well, a conference network would offset the Longhorn Network. But the Sooners, I saw where they wanted to do their own network, so I don't know. I don't know how this thing's going to turn out. But as long as things are not the same, you're going to waste a lot of time talking about it, so just get the same contract for everybody. Everybody's equal. If you'd have had that, you wouldn't have lost the Aggies, you wouldn't have lost Nebraska and Colorado, and it looks like Missouri's going. It's because things are not equal.
Are you more or less optimistic now that the Big 12 will hold together?
I think we're working in that direction that somehow we're going to fix it to where we're all equal. But we're not there yet.
Switching gears to your football coach. Is Mike Gundy due a raise?
Well, I don't think this is the time to talk about it. I'm sure that discussion will take place at the end of the year, but the middle of the season, I think Gundy and all the rest of us are focused on football and the games that are coming up. There'll be a time to talk about salary.
His job as the Cowboy coach — what are you most pleased with?
A big part of it is W and L. He's 7-0 this year. We'll see how we finish up, but that, of course, will be part of the discussion. But also record doesn't just mean your winning record. His staff has stuck together. The longer your staff sticks together, there's no question your recruiting will continue to get better. Those guys are working the same areas in recruiting. You're not sending a new face in there to meet the players and the families. Joe Castiglione … we were sitting together at the National Football Foundation board meeting, and Joe said to me, “You guys are committed.” It's very clear to everybody — we are committed.
THE STORY OF BOONE PICKENS GIFT
Oklahoma State megabooster Boone Pickens gave his alma mater $165 million in Dec. 2005, but the gift was much longer in the making. And as Pickens explained Wednesday during the Jim Thorpe Association's October Leadership Luncheon, the donation might never have been made had it not been for what happened in Sept. 2005 — the hiring of Mike Holder as athletic director.
“Mike came to the ranch — we hunted together and got to know each other very well — and (he) kept saying, ‘You want to be competitive and we're not competitive.' He said, ‘Our facilities are horrible.' I said, ‘Well, figure up how much it'll take to be competitive.' I'm doing pretty good about this time. I'm making some money. I'd just gotten out of a bad divorce, so I knew exactly what I had. I had exactly half of what I did have.
“Mike had this spread sheet, and this spread sheet kept getting bigger, but I was not giving him any money. He finally brought the spread sheet over and said, ‘$300 million will make us competitive.' ‘$300 million? I'm not going to give you $300 million.'
“That was wrong.
“We're getting serious in 2005, and I said, ‘I can tell you one thing, I'm not going to give OSU $300 million until I've got somebody over there that I think knows what they're doing and taking care of the money.' Well, I knew he was tighter than hell. He'd raised so much money for OSU golf, built that golf course over there, never borrowed any money and had money in the bank. He could've built another golf course. I said, ‘I've gotta have somebody that looks after the money closely.' He said, ‘Well, what're you thinkin'?' I said, ‘I'm thinkin' you.' He said, ‘Well, I don't want to be athletic director.' I said, ‘Fine, roll up your sheet. I don't want to give $300 million.'
“Then I really hurt his feelings. I said, ‘You know, you've gone through pretty well most of your life with your feet on the handle bars.' He said, ‘Well, what do you mean by that?' I said, ‘You figured out how to win at golf, and you just keep doing it over and over again, and it's gotten so it's easy. So, you don't really ever have to pedal. You just get on and everything goes smooth for you.' He said, ‘I didn't have my feet on the handle bars.' I said, ‘Well, you need to be challenged. You need to get a job where you're really challenged.' He said, ‘Well, what are you thinking about?' I said, ‘I'm thinking about you as athletic director. You love the university. You've raised money. You like all the sports. You go to all the games whether golf, football or anything else. You're over there, you and (wife) Robbie are, at everything. You'd be perfect for the job. Now, I've got to convince Dave Schmidly you're perfect for the job, too.'
“Schmidly, he wasn't sure. He needed to do a world-wide search for an athletic director. I said, ‘You'd better think about doing a world-wide search for $300 million.'
“It went down pretty easy.”