T. Boone Pickens massive $165M gift to Oklahoma State has taken a hit on account of the economic downturn. In a nutshell, Pickens gave them $165M, which was managed by one of his hedge funds (read: aggressive). The original donations swelled to around $407M, but then due to the stock market dropped to $125M.
If you’re one of those (foolish) people who counts paper as cash, then you’d say they lost $282M.
Here’s the key problem for Okie State. They’d leveraged that money to pay for construction projects - new facilities for the baseball, softball, tennis and equestrian programs, another complex for the soccer and track teams, and an indoor practice facility for football. Obviously they’ll no longer be able to afford all of it due to the loss. Rather, they’ll no longer be able to afford to do it all right now.
Sad story for Oklahoma State? Hardly. Pickens gave them an additional $63M to cover the costs of stadium renovations, which includes a new locker room, weight rooms and training space. That’s $188M total, despite the loss. That’s a massive amount of money which will keep Oklahoma State’s football program rolling along very nicely.
The real news about this story? It’s not like Oklahoma State is the only program building new facilities, and they're certainly not the only ones struggling with costs. You can bet due to increased material costs that the new baseball stadium in Omaha is going to cost a lot more than originally intended, that a potential new basketball stadium in Lincoln won’t be built until things improve (or the Oracle of Omaha gives them a boatload of money and there’s no reason as to why he would). Everyone will be affected by this economic downturn.
Athletic departments are run by people who are notoriously horrible at business decisions, ala the constant string of contract extensions given to coaches who are then fired before the season’s end. Add to that increased costs in travel, health care, insurance, and a host of other items and you begin to see the problem. If that doesn't make you stop and think, what about all the programs out there, like Nebraska, who rely on season ticket holder donations to fund their yearly budgets. It won't be a matter of how much people donate, it'll be a matter of how big a shortfall there will be.
Put all this together and you have to realize that this isn’t the last story we’ll see like this.
Other programs won’t be as lucky as Oklahoma State. What happens when an athletic department fails? Not everyone has a sugar daddy around to bail them out and the feds have already spent their money. The next couple years may very well lead to an upheaval in college athletics. In the long run, maybe that’s not so bad.