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October 21, 2008 - Financial Straits of Boosters Hit Athletic Programs

By JOE DRAPE and THAYER EVANS, New York Times

Nearly three years ago, the billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens donated $165 million to Oklahoma State’s athletic department so it could remake its facilities into a Shangri-La for Cowboys sports, complete with an indoor practice center and new facilities for baseball, equestrian, soccer, tennis, and track and field. Pickens was so true to his school that he also allowed Oklahoma State to take out a $10 million insurance policy on his life.

Those funds, along with $37 million from other donors, were invested in BP Capital Management, a hedge fund controlled by Pickens. At the time, it looked like a windfall that would keep on giving. Instead, Pickens recently acknowledged that his investments had lost $1 billion this year amid the financial crisis.

Now, building on Oklahoma State’s athletic village has been held up, and the athletic director, Mike Holder, said the project would have to wait until Pickens’s financial situation improved. Holder and a spokesman for BP Capital declined to disclose the current value of the university’s investment in Pickens’s hedge fund.

Oklahoma State is hardly alone in watching its soaring ambitions crash back to earth with the fortunes of some of its biggest benefactors.

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