Gary Davidson leans forward in his plush leather chair and speaks with the tight-lipped precision of a corporate attorney. “A football player,” he says, “is a capitalization expense.”
Davidson comes by this jargon legitimately. Trained as a tax lawyer, the 39-year-old Californian has founded the insurgent World Football League, and with a counsel’s gift for the practical, he acutely understands that if his teams are to survive, they need crowd-drawing stars. Consequently Davidson’s WFL has been paying staggering sums to lure such luminaries into the league as Dallas’ Calvin Hill and Miami’s Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield (a $3 million package alone). These raids on the National Football League have infuriated its club owners and coaches—in one of their more printable quotes Davidson was described as an “arrogant, shrimpy sort of guy”—and raised the spectre of stratospheric bidding for future football talent. Davidson is used to being considered a pariah, having founded rival leagues in pro basketball and hockey amid the same kind of furor just in the last seven years.
For Davidson, creating the WFL, which will begin playing in 1974, has meant a succession of 18-hour days, and a grueling 200,000-mile-a-year traveling schedule. Despite this he has maintained the trim, boyish look of a former California surfer. He was raised in Compton, Calif., and after a fitful academic start finally received a B.A. in political science and a law degree from UCLA. Early in his law career he helped form several corporations, giving him a taste for the thrill of assembling complex structures—like the WFL.
Davidson stays in shape by playing cutthroat tennis and bruising basketball. His style of play has left him with a 14-stitch scar on his upper lip and a 12-stitch line on his forehead. When he can’t find a court or a game on the road, he jogs. At home he and his wife Barbara, a former UCLA cheerleader, and their four children live in an elegant private shore community at Newport Beach. Davidson, whose personal tastes run toward the understated, indulges himself by driving a Mercedes and a restored Jaguar 140 refitted with a Corvette engine—a boyhood dream he can now easily afford.
Despite his critics Davidson is convinced his new league will take fire, raising the obvious question of what sport he’ll organize next. He has relinquished active interest in the hockey and basketball leagues, and once it is established, he may do the same with the WFL. But right now, Davidson insists, he’s too busy to think about the future. Not that the offers aren’t there. “They’ve all come to me,” he says with a smile, “track, tennis, bicycle racing, water polo.”