Tramel: Boone Pickens statue going up soon at Oklahoma State; now it's time for a Barry Sanders statue
Athletic director Mike Holder says OSU never could thank Boone Pickens enough for what he did for his alma mater.
But that doesn’t keep the Cowboys from trying.
OSU announced Thursday that Pickens will be “permanently honored” with a statue in front of the football stadium that bears his name. The statue will be unveiled before the Nov. 28 Texas Tech game.
Some might wonder why the stadium’s first statue is of its namesake and not, for example, Barry Sanders, who ran a little bit with the pigskin back in 1988 and was given his own miniature statue, the Heisman Trophy.
The lack of a Sanders statue is a burr in Bullet’s saddle to many a Cowboy old-timer.
The stadium already has Pickens’ name. Now a statue. What’s next? Rename Hall of Fame Avenue to Boone Pickens Boulevard?
This is no slam at Boone. I liked Boone, liked him a lot, and better yet, he seemed to like me. I visited his office a few years ago, where he gave me a tour of some of that fabulous Western art that went up for auction a few years ago and drew millions. I rode with him on his jet from Dallas to Stillwater for the 2010 OSU-Texas A&M game; Dan Bailey nailed a field goal at the buzzer for a 38-35 Cowboy victory, and that Gulfstream 550 was one happy place on the flight back to Dallas.
It’s just that Pickens has been quite honored for his approximately $600 million in donations to OSU. And a statue of a guy in a football uniform might turn the head of a recruit or two.
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Football people of all ages know Sanders well, but it doesn’t hurt to remind the teenage crowd what a giant Sanders was in 1988. Maybe the best individual season in college football history, with 2,850 rushing yards and 44 touchdowns.
Don’t look now, but that was 32 years ago. Keeping such history alive should be paramount in Stillwater, and a statue absolutely would do that.
The Sanders statue is in OSU’s plans, it’s just a matter of when. Doing Sanders first might have made more sense, considering Pickens is gone. He died in September 2019 at the age of 91, after living an amazing American life. It’s always preferable to honor the living, since they can enjoy it.
Of course, there’s an advantage to honoring the dead. The chances of embarrassment go way down.
Southern Cal hasn’t erected statues of its seven Heisman Trophy winners. And that’s a blessing. One of its Heisman winners is Reggie Bush, whose trophy was vacated after massive NCAA violations were discovered. Another is O.J. Simpson. What goes up, sometimes must come down.
We saw that in the summer, when all kinds of historical statues were toppled during social-justice protests. Some needed to come down. Some not.
So statues can be a thorny topic.
OSU has just two statues on campus, neither for athletics: Henry Bennett, the iconic president who served from 1928-50, and Nancy Randolph Davis, the university’s first African-American student.
Nothing wrong with showing restraint. OU committed to statues for its Heisman winners and its big-winning football coaches, but those clubs now total 11. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray statues haven’t been erected yet. The Sooners can’t even keep up; OU is winning Heismans quicker than it can cast bronze and schedule ceremonies.
And OU is planning a Selmon Brothers statue. That’s a dozen football sculptures. Put up too many and they lose their prestige.
But the Cowboys have to start somewhere. And the Boone statue will be impressive.
An Oklahoma treasure, Harold Holden, will produce the nine-foot-tall sculpture, which will stand on the stadium’s west side. I’ve been to Holden’s studio in Kremlin, just north of Enid, where he produced the Kneeling Cowboy statue that sits in the corner of Gallagher-Iba Arena’s south lobby, honoring the 10 victims of the 2001 OSU basketball plane crash.
Pickens was a compelling personality. Holden will do him justice, I’m quite sure.
“He was just an old country boy from Holdenville, Oklahoma, but he could think his way around any Nobel Prize winner,” OSU president Burns Hargis said in a statement. “Boone was a legend, a change agent, a life force that rarely comes along.”
I agree. Boone Pickens changed OSU and OSU football. He was bigger than life, and a Harold Holden statue will reflect that.
Here’s hoping Holden is working on a Sanders statue next.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.