Pickens' preference: Big 12 survival
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010
6/10/10 at 8:57 PM
From Dave Sittler's blog: Time For Sooners and Cowboys To Head West With Ralphie?
Related story: Castiglione subdued, but says the Big 12 is not dead just yet
T. Boone Pickens, Oklahoma State's most prominent alumnus, says his preference is to keep the Big 12 as a functioning conference – even if it has only nine members.
However, Pickens' positive relationship with the powerful University of Texas may be a strong factor in OSU's candidacy for a possible switch of six Big 12 universities to the Pac-10.
The Pickens-Texas bond was fortified by a 2007 donation of $100 million to the UT system.
"I have a friendly relationship with Texas," Pickens said during a Thursday telephone interview from his Texas Panhandle ranch.
Responding to various reports that OSU, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech soon could be invited to join Colorado as new members of the Pac-10, Pickens said, "I want to see the Big 12 held together. ... If Nebraska and Missouri go (to the Big Ten), we've got nine teams left. I would say those nine teams, if we could make that work, I'd rather keep those nine teams together and play (eight conference football games) every year. Eight conference games and four nonconference."
Pickens acknowledged the apparently strong possibility that OSU may soon be invited to join the Pac-10.
"If it (happens), that's fine," Pickens said. "I'm a team player. I'll go right along with it. . . . Whatever deal Holder (OSU athletic director Mike Holder) and Hargis (university President Burns Hargis)make, I'm on board."
The 82-year-old Pickens, whose donation of $165 million was greatly responsible for OSU's $283 million renovation of Boone Pickens Stadium, expressed sadness at the prospect of losing time-tested rivalries.
"I've got a long history with Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State. Why do I want to go off and leave them?" he said. "I go back to the Big Six (conference, which existed in 1928-47). You weren't even born. The Big Six was Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and OU. Oklahoma State wasn't in the Big Six. (OSU) was Oklahoma A&M at that time.
"I can remember when I was a kid, my dad and I driving from Holdenville to Norman to watch OU's games. Those are fond (memories) for me. It cost me 10 cents."
Long before the possibility of a merger of Pac-10 and Big 12 schools, OSU was favorably positioned.
In terms of leverage and influence, Texas is considered the chief figure among Big 12 schools that reportedly are destined for Pac-10 membership. Three years ago, Pickens donated $100 million to the UT system ($50 million for each of two medical facilities). The money was placed in a fund and can't be spent until the total grows to specified amount, but in effect Pickens' gift resulted in a stronger OSU-Texas
Within Pickens' BP Capital investment firm, one of his closest associates is Robert L. Stillwell, a prominent graduate of Texas' law school.
Pickens said he did not donate $100 million to UT with any foresight of eventual conference realignment, and that OSU would want to be grouped with Texas and Oklahoma if such movement were to occur.
However, he acknowledged, "it didn't hurt."
During a May 12 appearance at the Oklahoma Capitol, Pickens met with legislators who have OSU connections. At that time, the possibility of a Pac-10 switch had not emerged, but it was apparent – because of Nebraska and Missouri's flirtation with the Big Ten – that the Big 12's definition might change.
Pickens' message that day: "I just said that no matter what happens, the Oklahoma schools (OSU and OU) should always stick together."
Responding to various reports that several Big 12 schools will be invited to the Pac-10, T. Boone Pickens said, "I want to see the Big 12 held together."