Try 1 month for 99¢

It was perhaps predictable that native son Ted Waitt's proposal to put up $31 million for a dream college football matchup would be slammed to the turf by some folks back home like a quarterback knocked off his feet by a blitzing linebacker.

Last week, the Gateway Inc. co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer offered the money in the form of scholarships and Gateway products to Louisiana State University and the University of Southern California if the football teams from the respective schools would play a national championship game.

The idea appears dead. Company spokesman David Hallisey told The Journal Thursday that the NCAA has in writing declined Waitt's offer. Still, discussion is certain to continue, particularly here, on the merits of his idea.

When the college football season ended earlier this month, LSU was rated No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series following its win over the University of Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. USC defeated the University of Michigan in the Rose Bowl and finished number one in the final Associated Press media poll.

Thus, the national championship was split, and college football fans across the country were left to wonder and debate over who would win if LSU and USC were to meet.

Enter Waitt.

After his idea was reported by media, reaction in Siouxland was swift. It is here where Gateway was born, grew to national prominence, and was headquartered for much of its history. But company employment in North Sioux City has fallen from some 6,000 workers at one time to around 2,000 today.

The Journal has received for consideration a stack of Letters to the Editor and Mini Editorials centering on Waitt's idea this week, the majority of them castigating him for offering tens of millions of dollars for a football game while the ink was still wet on pink slips around here.

Hallisey told The Journal earlier this week that he understands the area's sensitivities in that regard, and so do we. However, he said if the game were held as proposed by Gateway, the firm would make, not lose, money and in no way would the contest "negatively impact our business." And that's a point worth considering because a couple of thousand local jobs still depend on the future success of Gateway.

Waitt is no fool. To the contrary, he wouldn't have taken his company to the heights it reached were he not a shrewd businessman. We view his football game offer as one more example of a creative business mind at work.

First, he received - for nothing - a tremendous amount of exposure. People from coast to coast have been talking about him, his company and his idea. That's free national advertising, and that's good for business.

Second, the offer was contingent on the company securing broadcast rights to the game. If the game were to happen - and again, unless the NCAA changes its mind, it won't - it would be carried on national television. Bidding for the rights to televise such a highly anticipated matchup presumably would be huge - not equal to the cost of rights to the Super Bowl, but very, very big. If the company landed the TV rights, again, that would be good for business.

The average price of a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl has jumped 7 percent to a record-breaking $2.25 million this year. Advertising for a game of this kind would be sold for big, big dollars, too.

Thus, there would be many winners - the two schools, the network which purchased the TV rights, the advertisers which bought time during the telecast, college football fans, and Gateway.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Bottom line, the company spokesman is right. Gateway would make money on such a deal. And making money is very, very good for business.

Siouxland residents also would be advised to take into account all of the wonderful good that Waitt, his family and his company have done for so many projects in this area.

There are headline-grabbing projects for which Waitt and Gateway have given millions, such as Gateway Arena at the new Tyson Events Center and the Orpheum Theatre restoration project. Beyond that are countless examples of other less-publicized but no less important and worthwhile endeavors to which Waitt family members and the company have contributed greatly.

Philanthropy is an area in which the Waitts and Gateway need take a backseat to no family and no business in this region.

Alas, it appears the whole thing will never happen. That was probably true from the start. But we do not take umbrage with Waitt for trying to put together the showdown while at the same time getting himself some good P.R. and attempting to make money on a business deal.

After all, we'd like to see that game ourselves.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments