Life insurance policies to fund Oklahoma St. athletics

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Using an idea from billionaire donor Boone
Pickens, Oklahoma State will purchase $10 million life insurance
policies for 25 of its supporters in a unique fundraising program
for the athletic department.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said he believes
the "Gift of a Lifetime" program is the largest such use of life
insurance ever by a college athletic department. The university
will pay the insurance premiums for the selected donors, with the
athletics department being listed as the beneficiary.

The money from the policies will be used to endow athletic
scholarships and pay for facilities and operations, Holder said.

"We believe we're the first university athletic department to
get it done," said Larry Reece, the executive director of major
gifts and development. "We've been told that this has been done
with some churches, and successfully done."

Reece said at least one other school had contacted Oklahoma
State to inquire about the program.

"We really believe it will change and secure the future for
Oklahoma State," Reece said.

Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said he had spoken
with Oklahoma State officials about the idea in the past six
months, and had also run it past people in the insurance business
and others at the University of Texas. He hadn't come to any
conclusions yet and said "we don't have any plans going on at this

"That's why I'm gathering information, to see if we might
consider it," Myers said. "It's not something I can say we're
going to do, but I have looked into it."

Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny, a former insurance
executive, said he'd need more information about the donors to know
what to think of Oklahoma State's plan.

"This looks like an interesting idea, but based on the
information here I need more information to comment
intelligently," said Kilkenny, who is chairman emeritus of San
Diego-based Arrowhead General Insurance Inc.

When reached after business hours Thursday, NCAA spokeswoman
Gail Dent said she would have to check with departments that had
already closed in order to determine whether any other schools had
similar programs.

Reece expressed gratitude to the 55 individuals who agreed to
take physicals and go through the process to try to qualify for the
insurance plans. He said most of the 25 in the initial pool are
donors and season-ticket holders. All are between the ages of 65
and 85.

Reece said the school would have to pay $20 million in insurance
premiums, which it borrowed on credit.

The school is in the midst of a vast upgrade to its athletic
facilities sparked by Pickens' $165 million donation in January
2006 -- the largest gift ever to an NCAA athletics program. The
proposed athletic village will include new facilities for baseball,
softball, track, soccer, tennis and equestrian at a price of at
least $300 million. That total includes completion of an upgrade to
the football stadium, which is named after Pickens.

"Our initial discussions with Boone on this subject quickly
shifted from a 'what if?' to a 'why not?' conversation," Holder
said. "One thing led to another and we sought guidance of top
insurance experts to research the idea.

"This program is evidence of our loyal supporters' willingness
to embrace new ways to help their university by leaving a lasting
legacy that will benefit OSU Cowboys and Cowgirls for generations
to come."

Holder noted that Oklahoma State's athletic department still
faces a projected budget deficit, since Pickens' gift and the
insurance plan are aimed at long-term stability.

Pickens, the founder of Dallas-based energy investment fund BP
Capital, has given more than $250 million to Oklahoma State, his
alma mater, in recent years.

Alumnus Sherman Smith pledged $20 million in January toward the
building of a $50 million indoor practice facility. Groundbreaking
is expected this year.

The university has also begun a $114.5 fundraising initiative to
endow all 229 of its athletic scholarships.