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With three new start-up basketball leagues hoping to begin play by late '99, the BOSTON GLOBE's Gregg Krupa asks, "Will corporate America ante up the necessary sponsorship fees and other financial support to make the leagues viable?" The IBL, the National Rookie League and the Collegiate Professional Basketball League "are scurrying to find out." Woolf Associates VP Andrew Brandt: "I think there is a market in this country for more than the [NBA] and the [CBA] on a professional level, and this fills the void." But most corporate spokespeople "said they would likely wait before signing on." Eric Kraus, who handles sports marketing at Gillette: "There has been some buzz about these new leagues, but it is not as if there is a hot property out there that people are vying to jump on." Krupa adds: "Each of the start-up leagues would, in their own way, offer some money for college education, at a time when the athletes are ready to attend." So far, the NCAA's response "has been muted." NCAA spokesperson Wally Renfro: "The leagues may in fact be a viable alternative for basketball players who may not be academically prepared to handle the load at the college level and who want to play basketball" (Gregg Krupa, BOSTON GLOBE, 8/13). INTEREST IN IBL: Cincinnati's IBL franchise will play at the Crown and will be headed by IHL Cyclones and Crown President Doug Kirchhofer, his brother John, and Mike Smith of entertainment holdings company Nederlander & Associates (CINCINNATI POST, 8/12). A majority owner is not in place in San Diego, but Ernie and Ron Hahn will own less than 10% of the team, as will Frank Roach. Ernie Hall is GM of the Sports Arena, the team's home (UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/12).
Architects for the proposed NBC/Time Warner football league, which may debut in June of 2000, "are considering having 10 to 12 franchises, a 10-week regular season and a championship game around Labor Day," according to Peter King of SI, who cites "sources familiar with discussions." Rather than "engage in a bidding war with the NFL for stars," the league "would create regional franchises stocked primarily with former collegians who have a local following and are willing to play for less than $100,000 a season." Several "fan-friendly" elements also are being considered. But King writes, "the last thing America needs is a new sports league." A-B Corporate VP/Media & Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo: "The big question is, Can NBC and Turner create a league that will keep the 21- to 34-year-old male at home on a weekend night? ... Baseball's growing stronger, and the growth of sports is outdistancing the growth of marketing dollars for advertisers. It'll be tough for the new league, but certainly you'd have to give it a hearing because of the brains of the people involved" (SI, 8/17). MORE FROM THE TIME WARNER INSIDER: King also told USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke: "I think the league definitely will play. Should the NFL fear this? I don't think so, but they should have worthy respect for some of the smartest men in TV. While they say revenge (for losing the NFL) isn't part of it, [NBC Sports Chair] Dick Ebersol and [Time Warner Vice Chair] Ted Turner would like to see the NFL suffer in some way" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 8/12).
Yankees Manager Joe Torre on MLB's decision to increase the cost of LCS and World Series tickets: "I've always marveled at how much a seat costs on the floor of a basketball game. And we have a long way to go before we reach that" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/13). Also in N.Y., Speranza & Breen write under the header, "Fans Boo Series Tix Hike. Cry Foul As Cost Doubles For Best Seats In House" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/13). In Cleveland, Hoynes & Maxse report that "reaction was mixed" on the increase among fans attending last night's Rangers-Indians game (PLAIN DEALER, 8/13). ...Vikings Owner Red McCombs told Sid Hartman in Minneapolis that the blackout rule was one of the "first subjects discussed at the recent NFL meeting." McCombs: "We were told by commissioner Paul Tagliabue that he wants the blackout rule strictly enforced and he will deal with any club that breaks it." Hartman: "What it means is the league no longer wants television stations and other corporations to buy out a big number of tickets so games can be televised" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/13).
For the "first time" since the Indy car split in '96, "there have been several movements recently that can only be viewed as positive," according to Robin Miller of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS. Last month, IRL Exec Dir Leo Mehl "asked his owners, collectively, how they felt about reconciling with CART," and at the Brickyard 400, Mario Andretti and Al Unser Jr. talked with IMS President Tony George "to pitch peace." Miller: "Three years into its existence, the IRL is seriously hurting for owners, sponsors and fans. ... After three years without the [Indy] 500, some CART teams are facing contract negotiations with sponsors that want to be back at the Speedway -- not St. Louis -- on Memorial Day weekend." IRL team Owner Fred Treadway: "My concept is that we come together for marketing efforts. Have 31 premier races with no schedule conflicts. ... Have an American and National League like baseball and we come together for the World Series every May." George had no comment, but IMS VP/Corporate Communications Fred Nation, said, "Yes, Tony has been listening" (STAR-NEWS, 8/12).