STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — It was just like old times at Oklahoma State when billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens arrived at the football facilities he is largely responsible for Friday.
It had been more than three years since Pickens had attended a practice, in part, because of a non-existent relationship with coach Mike Gundy. The two spoke amicably while the Cowboys scrimmaged at their indoor practice field, which sits across the street from T. Boone Pickens Stadium.
Pickens, who has donated more than $500 million to the school, blamed himself for lapse in the relationship with Gundy.
“I don’t know, we just kind of stopped talking, and that’s not good,” the 86-year-old Pickens said. “As being so much older than Mike, I should have been the one to call up and say ‘Hey wake up, we’ve got to stay in communication.'”
Pickens said athletic director Mike Holder told him four months ago that he should get back on the same page with Gundy.
“There weren’t bad terms, we just fell out of communication,” Pickens said. “Holder kind of said, ‘Look, you guys need to start talking again.’ That was kind of it. It made sense. When Gundy and I sat down and talked — this program isn’t about Gundy, and it isn’t about me. It’s about OSU. And so I said, ‘Look, you and I both want the same thing — for OSU to win.’ So he said, ‘Let’s do everything we can to accomplish that.'”
There has been speculation that Pickens had an issue with Gundy because of his most recent contract. Gundy got a new eight-year, $30.3 million deal in 2012. Pickens said that had nothing to do with the communication lapse.
“There was no incident,” Pickens said. “I never had a word with him about his contract. I’ve never talked to Mike Gundy about his contract.”
Gundy is glad he and Pickens are reconnecting. While introducing Pickens to the team, he tried to explain the difference Pickens made when he donated $165 million to the athletic program in 2005.
“I enjoy the conversation and the relationship that he and I have, and we had at one time,” Gundy said. “We went through a couple years where we didn’t have communication, and it wasn’t good for Oklahoma State, and it wasn’t enjoyable for me. We’ve had a lot of conversations on the phone over the past few months, and then again today, and I don’t see any reason why he and I can’t build a relationship like it was years ago.”
The Cowboys were in a tailspin last season before winning their final regular-season game against Oklahoma and the TicketCity Cactus Bowl against Washington to finish with a 7-6 record. Overall, Gundy has an 84-44 career record at Oklahoma State. The overall success matters to Pickens.
“Look at his record,” Pickens said. “He’s a winner. He’s won more football games and had the best record of any coach we’ve ever had at Oklahoma State.”
Gundy said he appreciates Pickens’ support.
“We’re very thankful to have what he gave us, but it takes all of us pulling in the same direction,” Gundy said. “What he said is right — it’s a good time to be at Oklahoma State.”
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