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OU President David Boren denies Memorial Stadium renovation on hold, proclaims project is 'shovel-ready'
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OU President David Boren denies Memorial Stadium renovation on hold, proclaims project is 'shovel-ready'

OU president says the $370 million project is “shovel-ready.”

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The contract of Lincoln Riley — the University of Oklahoma’s new offensive coordinator — officially was approved by the school’s Board of Regents on Wednesday afternoon.

But will the coach call plays in a $370 million renovated Memorial Stadium? Or will he work in the same venue known to fans since 2003?

On a day when the Board of Regents’ agenda listed only personnel matters within the athletic department, a report by SoonerScoop.com stated that construction of the renovation’s first phase would be postponed.

The reason? Fundraising has slowed because of a fading economic climate relative to falling gasoline and oil prices.

The school immediately issued a statement disputing the report: “The planning and the fundraising are going along very well for the Stadium Project. In fact, the project is already scheduled to be on the agenda at the March meeting of the OU Board of Regents.”

President David Boren, after the meeting in Lawton, also denied the report. He reportedly took a copy of the report out of his jacket pocket and called it “inaccurate.”

Boren called the stadium project “shovel ready” but did admit that falling oil and gasoline prices have hurt all avenues of school fundraising.

“When you have people lose half their net worth over the period of two, three weeks, and they’re donors to the university and they want to give to the university, it hurts all fundraising,” Boren told The Oklahoman.

Athletic director Joe Castiglione was asked by the Tulsa World earlier this month how much of the $370 million project had been raised.

“When we announced the stadium plan, it was conceptual. I know a lot of people went from zero to 100 overnight, thinking, ‘Are you gonna complete that after next season?’ That was just the conceptual part,” Castiglione said. “And we did a lot in a six-month time just to get that much out there.

“But then we’ve gone through both more the design development and sort of a simultaneous track on fundraising, and it’s been good. But we’ve also said we’ll build what we can as we generate the private funds for it. The reception has been really good.”

The Board of Regents gave the green light for stadium renovation in June. Among the changes were enclosing the south end zone to form a continuous bowl, improving amenities and upgrades to enhance fan environment, and redevelop the Barry Switzer Center. No state-appropriated funds or student tuition funds would be used, with a significant part of the project funded by private fundraising.

While the drop in oil and gasoline prices has hurt, it is difficult to measure how much the football program’s disappointing season also has impacted fundraising. OU is coming off an 8-5 season that included three home losses, the most in Bob Stoops’ 16-year run as head coach.

Stoops made a change at offensive coordinator to try to turn the program’s fortunes around. Riley’s two-year contract is $500,000 annually, with a base salary of $265,000.

He has performance bonuses, including one for winning the College Football Playoff national championship, equal to 10 percent of the total of the base salary amount and the additional and outside income amount.

The next Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for March 10-11 in Claremore and Tulsa.

Eric Bailey 918-581-8391

eric.bailey@tulsaworld.com

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