CNN/Money 
graphic
Your Money > Smart Assets
graphic
West Virginia teacher wins $1 million
Misses the big payout in Pepsi's Play for a Billion sweepstakes; pledges to give most away.
September 17, 2003: 12:32 PM EDT
By Gordon T. Anderson, CNN/Money Contributing Writer

ORLANDO, FLA (CNN/Money) A West Virginia school teacher won a million dollars on national television Sunday night, and immediately promised to use it to tithe his church, fund a library, and endow a college scholarship program.

For the million dollars, Richard Bay had to endure a summer of anticipation, a weekend of parties, and a high-stakes game of "guts."

Bay, a teacher from Princeton, West Virginia (pop. 7,000), was the winner of Pepsi's "Play for a Billion" sweepstakes, a summertime promotion that ended this weekend in Florida. More than 4 million people took part in the contest, which has been the centerpiece of the soda maker's recent marketing efforts.

Richard Bay celebrates after winning $1 million.  
Richard Bay celebrates after winning $1 million.

Of those contestants, 1,000 people made it to the final round, for which they were flown to Florida for a weekend that culminated in the taping of a two-hour TV show that aired Sunday night on the WB Network.

"It's nice to receive but it's better to give, and it always comes back to you in the end anyway," said Bay, who also plans to get himself out of debt ("it's a small amount," he said) and buy his wife of six years a car ("I'll drive the old one").

Bay earns $30,000 a year as a graphic design teacher at Mercer County Technical, a vocational school.

Long odds

The game's format was traditional: soda caps were marked with special numbers, which people could enter on the game's Web site.

What was unusual about it was the size of the reward: A guaranteed $1 million for the winner, plus the chance at $1 billion.

Kendall the chimp picked the six numbers that could have given Richard Bay $1 billion.  
Kendall the chimp picked the six numbers that could have given Richard Bay $1 billion.

Four million people submitted more than 30 million game entries, according to Pepsi vice president Van Sapp, so the finalists overcame long odds to get to Orlando. One woman scoured a university stadium for spent bottle caps after a sporting event, then entered 292 numbers.

For Sunday's show, each of the 1,000 contestants picked a six-digit number. The 10 contestants with a number closest to or exactly matching one picked by Kendall, a chimpanzee, advanced as finalists.

A religious man, Bay had turned to the scriptures for his six digits, 228238, which he derived from Acts 2:38 (Act corresponds to 228 on a standard phone pad).

The finalists gathered on the stage to play guts, a game of nerve in which each player was offered progressively higher amounts of money in return for forsaking a shot at the top prize.

Bay was the last remaining player, guaranteeing him the million-dollar prize. To win $1 billion, his six-digit number would have had to exactly match Kendall's. It did not.

No sore losers

There were other prizes too. Mitsubishi gave away three cars, United Airlines gave away two around the world trips, as well as two other trips to London, England, and Marriott awarded a life-long time share membership to one of its resorts. Plus, Pepsi ended up doling out $390,000 to runners-up.

A party in the ballroom at the Marriott World Resort for contestants on the eve of the show felt like a cross between a prom and a pep rally, or perhaps a revival meeting.

Some 1,700 Pepsi employees were on hand to run the event, at which Marilyn Monroe and Groucho Marx impersonators vied for attention with a lasso-swinging cowboy.

Pepsi executive Sapp made an energetic call-and-response presentation, centered upon the fact that someone would soon win a lot of money.

WB president Jed Petrick plugged the network's new shows. Producer Matti Leshem prodded the crowd to practice cheering.

The audience itself soon joined the act. Jeff Wassil, of Wilmington, N.C., jumped on stage to ask everyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to his girlfriend, contestant Sandy Dawson. He then got on one knee and proposed. (She accepted.)

Kentucky's Amanda Neese followed by explaining the difficulties she'd had in conceiving a second child. She used the forum to tell her husband and a few thousand strangers that she is three weeks pregnant.  Top of page




  More from FIVE TIPS
Wedding planning means wedding savings
Summer vacation tips
Remodeling your home? Watch out for scams
  TODAY'S TOP STORIES
7 things to know before the bell
SoftBank and Toyota want driverless cars to change the world
Aston Martin falls 5% in its London IPO




graphic graphic

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.