Billionaires don’t become billionaires because they’re dumb.
Billionaires do become billionaires, however, because they can be ruthless.
So what is Boone Pickens’ endgame? What’s his motivation for taking on his alma mater’s head football coach again?
Pickens, the benefactor of seemingly all things orange these days at Oklahoma State University, launched another public verbal assault on Mike Gundy this week when he appears on today’s podcast “On Second Thought” with Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman.
After taking a few shots during Tuesday’s interview at University of Oklahoma president David Boren for Boren’s ongoing flip-flops on Big 12 Conference expansion (“Maybe it’s time for David to retire,” Pickens said. … “He gets a little bit confused sometimes.”), Pickens lobbed artillery in Gundy’s direction.
“I don’t have any conversations with Gundy,” Pickens said. “I don’t know (if there is a rift), but Mike doesn’t handle people relationships very well. And he gets mad about things. I’ve heard he’s written some notes about me that weren’t very complimentary.”
The man who’s now on his fifth wife is criticizing Mike Gundy for his relationship skills.
Seems uncalled for.
Even though OSU has lost five of its last six games against FBS opponents dating back to last season, the former Cowboy quarterback has elevated the program to unprecedented heights as a coach — with Pickens’ money, yes. Still, Gundy deserves to be treated better than that.
Got a beef with your head coach? Call him. Do it behind closed doors. Families don’t air their dirty laundry.
So what’s Pickens’ end game?
Is he just a cranky old man who just doesn’t give a rip? Is he — at 88, he’s 14 years Boren’s senior — the one who “gets a little confused sometimes”? Is he trying to motivate Gundy to coach better like he thinks he did last time?
(Or does Pickens have an eye on Baton Rouge, thinking if he can chase Gundy away, maybe Les Miles will come back?)
This is only the most egregious episode of Pickens publicly criticizing Gundy. The two got so sideways at the end of the 2014 football season that OSU insiders said Gundy was certain he would be leaving.
Pickens, asked at the time if he supports Gundy, said, “I’m always going to be for OSU, I don’t care who coaches ‘em.”
Gundy responded that he doesn’t listen to what boosters said. When I read Pickens’ quote to Gundy, Gundy said that was fine because he was the OSU coach.
Then came Bedlam, Bob Stoops’ re-punt, Tyreek Hill’s runback and OSU’s overtime win in Norman, and the Cowboys’ season was saved. So, it seemed, was the relationship between Pickens and Gundy. They met face to face, they talked, and they both said the following spring that they had resolved their issues for the good of OSU.
Now, it seems, that peace accord has dissolved, and Pickens is once more shooting off at the lip.
Oklahoma State, of course, can do nothing about it. The school and the athletic department can’t publicly fire back. Can’t distance itself from Pickens. Can’t tell him to shut his trap. Can’t even send him a strongly worded text messages with one of those little emoji faces to lighten the tone.
Pickens owns OSU, and he probably has a receipt somewhere in one of his jets. He gets to make a lot of decisions in Stillwater. That’s what $500 million really buys these days — power.
There’s little that can be done. The school got into bed with a billionaire, sold its soul to a man who built his reputation as a ruthless corporate raider. And who can blame OSU? The structures that Pickens built will outlive the man by a hundred years or more.
Don’t get the wrong impression. Pickens does love his alma mater. Loves it so much he remade it in his image.
Now he gets to call the shots — even if that means firing shots at the most successful coach in school history.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.