Oklahoma State football: Why Boone Pickens' mark on OSU will last a long time

Boone Pickens has become as known for funding the OSU football program as he is for oil moguling and corporate raiding
by Berry Tramel Published: June 1, 2013

Boone says he gets a charge even from meeting the non-wealthy alums thankful that Cowboy football has played a part in raising the school's profile.

You think football is the only big change in Stillwater? Boone says the geology school is no less different.

Boone spent three years at then-Oklahoma A&M, after transferring from Texas A&M.

His last two years he was a nontraditional student, with a wife and soon a daughter and a job grading in the geology school.

After graduation, Boone famously started working on that first billion dollars, and didn't have much contact with his school.

“I graduated in '51,” Boone said. “We'd bump into each other, but nobody ever brought us back together. Now, that's exactly what's going on.”

Boone often talks about his grandmother, Nellie Molonson, who taught him to never forget where you came from.

That's why, Boone says, he reached out to OSU in the 1970s about become a donor, even if the massive millions didn't reach Stillwater until 30 years later.

Because of Boone's and other grads' generosity, “our geology school has done so much better,” he said. “Better than it's ever been.”

Boone says oil men from Chesapeake, Devon and Sandridge laud the work ethic of OSU's geology graduates.

“If you look at where our students come from, sure, there are some from Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Dallas, Houston,” Boone said. “But a great number of 'em come from small towns and schools that breed good work ethic.”

Work ethic matters to Boone, who at 85 takes few days off and takes few nonbusiness trips other than to Mesta Vista. Boone still wants to make money, even if part of his motivation is to give it away.

He's proud of his football team's rise. He's also proud of the family that long has worked his ranch; between two brothers, Boone has sent nine of their children to college, mostly at OSU.

Boone also knows a bunch of Texans who now send their kids to OSU. A&M and the University of Texas admit only the top 10 percent from a particular high school. That leaves a lot of good students looking for a college.

“Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, they picked up a lot of kids out of Texas,” Boone said. “A lot of those kids now come to OSU.

“They look at us. I hear from families that are going to OSU now. Very complimentary of the school.”

And a good football team doesn't hurt the college experience.

Boone doesn't spend much time with current or even former players.

“I'm not big on wanting to know players,” Boone said. “I just like to win. I like to see our team do well.”

Boone wasn't tight with Les Miles and isn't tight with Gundy.

“I don't have much contact with Mike,” Boone said. “I have closer contact with Travis Ford. Travis is going to get there. Travis is a very personable guy.”

Time was, another basketball coach, Eddie Sutton, was the big man on campus. The guy who was indispensable to a school craving an athletic identity.

Now, because Nellie Molonson taught her grandson well, football is king in Stillwater.

Boone likes to tell the story of a third-grade class in Holdenville. Boone was headed back to his hometown for a dedication, and the teacher was preparing her class for the event.

She asked the students if they knew who Boone Pickens was.

A little boy raised his hand. Said Boone Pickens was from Holdenville and was a big deal at OSU. And had a big head.

So far so good. But then the boy said Boone Pickens had a big hat. And a six-shooter.

Sorry, kid. Boone Pickens is not Pistol Pete. But we can understand the confusion. Boone is just as orange. Just as symbolically huge in Stillwater. Just as much of an OSU icon as the tradition-rich mascot.

In the twilight of his life, Boone has become as known for funding the Cowboy football renaissance as he was for oil moguling and corporate raiding in yesteryear.

And that twilight might have a long shelf life.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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