David Boren made it official on Wednesday afternoon.
The University of Oklahoma president for the last 23 years — a period of great financial growth across the entire OU campus, most notably in athletics — will retire on June 30, 2018.
That is contingent on the hiring of his permanent successor before then. Boren announced during a public event inside OU’s Holmberg Hall that if his successor is not named by next summer, he will remain in office until the school identifies his replacement.
“Until that time, I pledge to continue to do my best to provide the kind of leadership that this great university deserves,” Boren said.
“We have an extraordinarily talented leadership team ready and able to lead our university into the future.
“I have always understood that there comes to a time when I should pass the baton to a new president. I have wanted the transition to occur when the university was at maximum strength. I believe that the right time has come.
“That is why I am announcing today that I plan to retire as president of the University of Oklahoma effective at the end of the school year, June 30 of next year, contingent upon the selection of my permanent successor. If a successor has not been named at that time, I will remain as president until a permanent selection is made, so there will be no gap in the university’s leadership and no pause in our forward momentum.”
Boren, 76, announced his retirement less than four months after football coach Bob Stoops announced his. Along with athletic director Joe Castiglione, the Sooners’ “Holy Trinity” ruled college athletics together for 18 years.
Now, Joe C. stands alone.
Boren will conclude 51 years of public service in the state of Oklahoma. Boren is the first person in history to have served as Governor of Oklahoma, U.S. Senator and OU president. He previously served in the Oklahoma Legislature.
Boren was the driving force behind a renaissance of both athletics and academics at OU, including numerous capital gains fundraising projects that transformed the physical face of the campus.
After growing up in Seminole, Boren graduated from Yale in 1963 and received a law degree from OU in 1968 before beginning a distinguished career in politics, including four years as Oklahoma’s governor from 1974-78 and 15 years in the United States Senate from 1979-94.
Sooner Nation will forever applaud his contributions to the university, to which he returned in 1994 as the school’s 13th president.
With OU’s finances deep in the red and a once-mighty football program mired in five years of mediocrity, Boren initiated a $200 million fundraising campaign that ultimately brought in more than $500 million.
Boren hired Castiglione in April 1998, and following the 1998 football season, Castiglione fired coach John Blake and hired Stoops, who was defensive coordinator at Florida.
After three losing seasons under Blake, Stoops immediately resurrected the program with a 7-5 record in 1999 and the school’s first 13-0 record and seventh national championship in 2000.
That immediate success paid dividends for the coming generation and beyond. Stoops, who retired unexpectedly in June, presided over four major renovations to Memorial Stadium and its ancillary facilities, including a $160 million project that resulted in a new locker room, coaches offices and other areas beneath the newly bowled in south end zone.
According to the OU media guide, OU has received more than $2 billion in private donations during Boren’s tenure. That figure, however, was updated to more than $3 billion in Wednesday’s press release.
Boren is the Big 12 Conference’s only president who was in office when the league formed in 1996.
Boren also has been at the forefront throughout the league’s tumultuous realignment era, telling reporters that Oklahoma wouldn’t be a “wallflower” during the early process that left OU and other schools within an eyelash of joining the Pac-12 Conference, and later telling reporters that the league was “psychologically disadvantaged” to have just 10 members.
As chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors in 2016-17, Boren spearheaded the league’s efforts to expand beyond its current membership — an effort that included video presentations from 17 hopeful schools, after which the Big 12 announced it would not expand and was publicly panned for its almost comical administrative misadventures.
Boren had heart surgery last spring but quickly returned to work.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.