On November 4, 2005, The News Press announced to the city of Stillwater that Oklahoma State University was planning to acquire the homes of more than 1000 of the city's residents. These homes, totaling more than 400, were going to be eliminated to make room for the university's proposed Athletic Village. Through quotes from university officials, the article made it clear that if the homeowners resisted, eminent domain would be used.
The neighborhood, just north of the university, filled with small post-war homes, was one of Stillwater's few remaining areas of affordable housing. By going after this neighborhood, OSU was targeting the segment of the population least likely to have the financial resources necessary to defend themselves – students and lower income families.
One month after the announcement, Boone State was created by then-OSU students Chris Stellman and Garrett Hellman. Stellman was a homeowner in the area, and Hellman's parents' home was directly adjacent. What started as a joke between friends, instantly struck a cord with students, faculty, and community members. Simply by word of mouth promotion, within a few months BooneState.com had received several hundred thousand hits, and its creators were receiving interview requests from publications like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Dallas Morning News, The Tulsa World, The Daily Oklahoman, and OSU's campus paper The Daily O'Collegian. In a short time, Boone State buttons and stickers were seen decorating lapels and car windows all over the city.
With three new comic strips each week, Stellman and Hellman (working under the name Ahogo!) cast billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens as a demanding puppet master, with former OSU president David Schmidley and athletic director Mike Holder as his sniveling minions. Though the comics addressed a number of issues, like OSU's focus on athletics over academics, the heart of their campaign was the university's abuse of its powers of eminent domain, and the resulting betrayal of some of the University's biggest fans. Though the comics did not portray Pickens in a positive light, it was the university administration, willing to meet any demand of the donor, that received the sharpest criticism.
The comics drew a range of reactions, from enthusiastic support from concerned homeowners and fed-up faculty to hate mail and personal threats from zealous sports fans. And though the comics were often provocative, the real goal of the site was to shed light on the issue. Once the two realized they had an audience, they used their position to urge others to be proactive in the fight against the university's use of eminent domain, even swapping Boone State buttons and stickers for letters of petition to the Board of Regents.
Today the site remains as an archive of the comics, which appear in their original order. It also serves as reminder that beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars, the true cost of Oklahoma State University's Athletic Village was hundreds of homes and the trust of a community.