DALLAS -- Mike Gundy might have been the most popular person at the Wyndham Anatole on Wednesday.
"One-hundred sixty million?" Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter said to his Oklahoma State counterpart. "I need a loan, bro."
|Mike Gundy will be expected to win after this windfall. (USPRESSWIRE)|
"This is cash," Gundy said. "There's no substitute for cash in anything you do."
Whether it be building a new business school or beating the snot out of Texas. Make no mistake, this is mostly about the latter.
There's now no end to the pressure on Gundy, coming off a 4-7 season as a rookie head coach. Or the potential abuse of power.
Any way you slice this thing, ol' T. Boone just bought himself a university. And just in case you missed the message wrapped in all those Benjamins, we'll spell it out for you: College athletics officially turned pro this week. Pickens' gift merely was the rubber stamp.
In opening the association's convention Saturday, NCAA president Myles Brand's keynote address was essentially that commercialism was OK. Just as long as it wasn't crass or distasteful.
The NCAA can be an amateur organization, Brand suggested, and still do professional things. Like, you know, make gobs of money.
Somewhere Gordon Gekko was smiling because his message has reached the deepest, darkest inner recesses of the nation's most powerful amateur body.
Greed is good.
College athletics are in business to be a business. Commercialism is OK? With a bullet, folks. No matter how crass.
But who are we to be the arbiters of good taste? That has been thrust upon us in the form of the Oklahoma State geology school, a wing of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat house and football stadium.
All named after Pickens.
Former NCAA executive director Walter Byers would have been screaming out of his ivory tower in his day.
But even back in the 1970s, for every bust Byers' enforcement division was making to preserve the amateur ideal, Byers was squeezing every last penny out of ABC for the NCAA's football rights.
These days Brand rails against the facilities arms race, warning that schools can't afford to build facilities just to have a good football team.
Let Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder be the judge of that.
"I'm not too concerned by the message Myles Brand is trying to send out," Holder told CBS SportsLine.com. "That's just rhetoric. The reality is, our competition has these kinds of facilities. That's one reason they have a competitive advantage over us.
"That is the ballgame. If you want to run with the big dogs, you better get off the porch."
So let's call Oklahoma State what it really is -- a subsidiary of T. Boone Pickens' corporate empire. No different than any major college program that accepts money from Nike, Ford or SBC Communications.
Okie State just happened to get lucky this week. Pickens, OSU class of '51, is the 207th richest person in the U.S. His school is ninth in the Big 12 in athletic budget. It competes in the same division with a pair of schools that have won two of the past six national championships.
He wrote the check for the same reason rock stars date super models -- because he/they can.
So what did Pickens' gift really get him? No guarantees, that's for sure.
"They've caught up," said one I-A AD standing a few feet away from Gundy on Wednesday.
Caught up? That's it? Oklahoma State now has ability to build facilities that are equal only to mega-complexes at Oklahoma and Texas.
"The fear would be if there was realignment again, and you don't have a stadium that was big enough (you ask) 'Do we have the kind of facilities ... to remain in one of these big football conferences,'" Oklahoma State president David Schmidly told the Daily Oklahoman.
The big picture, then, is this: There are a load of Oklahoma States in I-A. Few of them have a Pickens.
When the money runs low, it's amazing what college presidents will do to replenish it. Like approve a 12th regular-season football game beginning this year when coaches were dead-set against it. Like allow players' images to sell everything from apparel to cars. Or did you miss the Pontiac Game-Changing Play hype all season?
Like allow a billionaire to basically own a university.
"Athletic departments and schools have to maintain control over decision making," Brand told reporters Wednesday, "otherwise they say no to the gift. If a school moves in a direction where the donor gives money to earn the right to name the coach or the athletic director, I've got a very serious problem with that."
There are those that will tell you that Gundy is Pickens' hand-picked coach. That Holder, a former golf coach, is Pickens' handpicked athletic director.
Again, that's not necessarily bad, but you can see where this could be headed. Auburn already has a powerful trustee who some say can wave his hand and fire a coach. Pickens has been described as a corporate raider in his business dealings.
Do we care, should we care -- as long as State U. wins?
"The University of Oklahoma isn't sitting still," Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said after hearing of Pickens' gift. "The University of Texas isn't sitting still. Michigan, Florida, Florida State, you name it.
"They're all programs that have visionary leaders."
That's not turning down the volume. That's Brand-name commercialism. Greed is good. See how a mission statement can change when it needs to?
Just don't alibi, suits. When the next financial crunch hits, there will be a football playoff. Ads are about tapped out of revenue streams now. The new BCS beginning this year has been de-valued with the double-hosting format.
Let's see how previously indignant presidents are when they discover a new vein of cash to be mined from a playoff. Suddenly all that missed class time (their excuse for opposing a playoff, not ours) won't matter.
It's already headed that way. Athletic departments are increasingly more reliant on the private sector for funding. Land-grant schools get less and less state money. Those schools lucky enough to have a sugar daddy are out front.
Those that don't are in the majority.
Believe me, presidents will do hypocritical things when they're desperate enough. They limited the size of media guides in the guise of "financial restraint" but gladly accept millions to close in the west end of the stadium.
Arms race? We're in an arms, legs, pancreas and kidneys race. He who dies with the most championships wins.
"I want to see this happen," said Pickens, 77. "I don't want somebody to tell me about it in another life."
"This will not be my last gift," he added. "You know I mean it."