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Get any two soft-drink aficionados together. Make sure one is a Coca-Cola drinker. And make sure the other is a Pepsi-Cola drinker. Ask them which carbonated beverage is better. Stand back. Coke and Pepsi fans don't know much about the color gray.

At Southeast Missouri State University, it seems Coke drinkers outnumber Pepsi drinkers about 3-to-1, particularly those who attend functions at the Show Me Center. For as long as anyone can remember, students, faculty, administrators and visitors to the campus have had a choice. There are Coke and Pepsi machines everywhere.

A few months ago, there was a lot of hoopla in Illinois when reports of exclusive Pepsi contracts surfaced. Much of the concern, it seems, was that most of us didn't know Southern Illinois University and other institutions of higher learning had quietly made exclusive contracts. But most contracts with vendors are pretty tame affairs. Who cares which company sells chocolate milk or sliced white bread to schools?

Nobody. At least, nobody cares until a million dollars is at stake. And the Pepsi folks have been willing to donate large sums of money in return for exclusive soft-drink rights.

In all the turmoil of these reports, little notice was given to the financial impact on the schools involved. A million dollars is nothing to sneeze at.

At the time, Southeast Missouri State University officials were asked if they had any exclusive contracts like this with Pepsi. The university officials were pleased to report that there were no such arrangements. There was even a tinge of pride that its students -- who, after all, favor Coke -- have a choice. Even though Pepsi drinkers were in a distinct minority, they could find their favorite drink all over campus.

Maybe that's why last week's announcement that Southeast is giving Pepsi an exclusive arrangement at the Show Me Center, in exchange for a $200,000 donation, caught so many people by surprise. Some folks were rubbed the wrong way by the whole deal.

Of course, the Pepsi offer was double what the Coke folks offered. And goodness knows the Show Me Center, which isn't financially self-sufficient, could use the money.

Some folks wondered why the university's regents got to make the deal with Pepsi. After all, the Show Me Center is a joint city-university project funded by the city's hotel-motel-restaurant tax. So why doesn't the city get a cut of the $200,000? Good question.

But maybe the biggest question hasn't been asked yet. Exclusive contracts aside, why is the Show Me Center so cheap? If deals are going to be made, shouldn't the university -- or city, or whoever -- demand top dollar? Sure, Pepsi outbid Coke $200,000 to $100,000, but why not hold out for half a million? Or even a million? Why not turn the whole campus over for a couple of million?

Mountain Dew, are you paying attention?