has given away a fortune to nonfootball causes: Texas Scottish Rite Hospital
for Children in his hometown of Dallas ($8 million), Katrina victims ($7
million), UT Southwestern Medical Center ($2 million) and the T. Boone Pickens
School of Geology at Oklahoma State ($1 million), to name a few. But this last
check makes those look like Monopoly money.
"I saw an
urgent situation that needed big dollars," Pickens says. "And I stepped
up to it."
O.K., so maybe
your definition of urgent runs more along the lines of famine, tsunamis and
disease, but good luck changing Pickens's mind. It's like talking to a
hurricane. This is the infamous corporate raider who tried to buy Gulf Oil
without Gulf Oil wanting him to and wound up with a silo of money.
Pickens, 78, is
larger than life. This summer a freshman defensive end was coming off the field
when he was introduced to the great man. The kid's eyes went wide as spaghetti
plates. "Oh my God!" the kid said. "I thought you were
Maybe a few wished
he were when this recent donation hit, because it's going to mean that about
250 families will have to be relocated to make room for the new, colossal
athletic complex. But, hey, it's not like Oklahoma State doesn't have a heart.
The university is paying people a $300 bonus for every year they lived in their
house before the bulldozers come. Sure, Aunt Ida, you've been forced out of the
home you raised your kids in, but won't that $6,000 be nice?
Some people think
they ought to name the whole school after Pickens. Boone Pickens University.
Well why not? He's handpicked the athletic director, the football coach,
everything up to the curtains in the suites. Plus, all the money he donates to
the school goes straight back into his wildly successful BP Capital energy
hedge fund. Which means he gives the money with one hand, manages it with the
other and decides how to spend it with, I don't know, his teeth?
Robert Darcy, a
poli-sci professor at Oklahoma State, says the tail is not just wagging the
dog, it's swinging the dog around like a lasso. "We have [school]
departments in basements, dorms, attics and condemned buildings," Darcy
says. "This university is underfunded in every imaginable way. And yet the
only concern here continues to be football."
O.K. So what's
? If you have a
comment for Rick Reilly, send it to email@example.com.