One-on-One With Burns Hargis

In our upcoming 2008 Football Season Preview issue of Go Pokes Magazine we will have an interview with Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis on athletics and some other issues. President Hargis spoke with Robert Allen as part of his radio show on Triple Play Sports. Here is an excerpt of that interview that will appear in its entirety in the magazine issue available in June.

GP: You came in as President when your athletic director Mike Holder was making a decision on the future of basketball coach Sean Sutton and then was involved in a major coaching search for his successor. That was your first major press conference in athletics as President. Holder is a vice president and a member of the cabinet. How is your relationship with Mike Holder?
Hargis: I think we have a very good relationship. I was supportive of Mike Holder becoming the athletic director. As I said at the time to my fellow regents, look this guy takes over a golf program in his 20s, I think he was 26, with almost no help really from anybody except what he did himself. He wins eight national championships, kids graduate at all-time records, arguably the best in the country. He builds the best college golf course in America debt free with lots of money in the bank. Why wouldn't you make him athletic director?

The other thing about Mike is he has a strong ethical commitment to the rules. To me that is very important to the University. It can be the tail wagging the dog. You are spending all this time and energy on some violation when you can be out raising money for the University. That is number one, and number two is he has a very high competitive attitude and I think that is very important. I think Mike is the whole package and I think our athletic program and sports are showing it.

GP: He is willing to try something new. What did you think when you first heard that to get Bedlam football tickets this year that you would have to be an OSU season ticket holder, and what did you think of that enterprising philosophy?
Hargis: That's a good term -- enterprising -- for it. When Mike first raised it with me, I basically reacted with I love creativity. I love innovation and I realize if you are engaged in those areas that not everything is going to work. You know Thomas Edison said he knew 868 ways not to make a light bulb, so I said let's go for it. Let's try it. It might work and it might not, we'll see. It's a creative effort to improve the situation and I want to see that all over this campus.

GP: I hope the Governor bought his OSU season tickets.
Hargis: My guess is he will be able to round up a ticket somewhere.

GP: This is a hot button topic sometimes with fans, especially outsiders. A lot of fans don't understand, and I'm one of those people that is so appreciative to Boone Pickens for what he has done, but some people say a booster like Boone Pickens is too much of a good thing.
Hargis: You can't get too much of that. The thing we have to always keep in perspective is that we neglected our athletic facilities and our programs for so long here and what has really happened is that we are doing it all at once. If you took all of this investment that is being done on Gallagher-Iba and Boone Pickens Stadium and even all the Athletic Village construction if you spread that over 30 or 40 years it wouldn't be that big a deal, but when you do it all at once like we are it looks like it's a huge deal.

Boone Pickens loves this University. He is a great guy. I think that we could not be luckier to have someone like him that is willing to invest in this University. As I always tell people, all he wants for us is the best. He is not unreasonable, he wants us to be competitive. I'll tell you another thing Robert, he feels the same way about academics. I think you are going to see here, over the not so long future, some very serious commitment to our academic programs by Boone Pickens.

GP: What kind of fans are you and your wife Ann? Are you all loud? Do you paint your faces?
Hargis: We're pretty big fans, but mainly we love these kids. I love the coaches that give their time and effort to these kids. I love the whole pageantry of it. Athletics should stand for our highest, you know the thing to remember is that every great civilization athletics has been an important part of that civilization. You look at the Greeks, the Romans, all the way right up to today, athletics has always played an enormous part in all of these cultures. I agree that we get some things out of whack, and we have probably gone over the edge, television has pushed us over the edge a little bit, but still at the base of it is this honest and ethical competition to win. I support it vigorously.

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