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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues Governing Bodies

          ABL player contracts, along with league and coaching
     hires, have "delayed" the league's expansion announcement,
     according to Bruce Berlet of the HARTFORD COURANT.  But "it
     appears Nashville will be the ABL's 10th franchise," as ABL
     CEO Gary Cavalli visited the city twice "the past two
     weeks," and it "apparently" beat Tampa and St. Louis in the
     "expansion sweepstakes."  Cavalli: "We've done a lot of
     careful analysis and it looks like we're going to
     Nashville."  In other news, Cavalli said the league's third
     season "could begin" two weeks later (around November 1) to
     avoid the World Series and have "less time opposite" the
     NFL.  Talks are also "continuing" with national TV networks
     about coverage next season (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/10).
          LEAGUE FINALS: The Long Beach StingRays and Columbus
     Quest are currently playing in the league finals, and Game
     One of the best-of-five drew a sellout crowd of 4,005 in
     Long Beach (DISPATCH, 3/9).  After watching the game,
     columnist Bill Dwyre called the ABL "the best ticket bargain
     in pro sports at the moment" with pro athletes "actually
     playing hard all the time" (L.A. TIMES, 3/9).  In S.F.,
     Glenn Dickey wrote the ABL "is doing fine" in year two and
     said of the two leagues, the ABL is "the better alternative. 
     It's run in the best interests of women's basketball, while
     the WNBA has a condescending, paternalistic approach.  And
     the ABL has a better game" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/6).

          While MLS's third season is set to kick off Sunday,
     league officials are "uncertain what to expect," according
     to Frank Dell'Apa of the BOSTON GLOBE.  The expansion Miami
     Fusion will host the DC United in a game televised live on
     ABC, yet the Fusion "have sold only 1,000 season tickets and
     7,000 tickets for the opener."  MLS Commissioner Doug Logan:
     "I'm concerned. I'd prefer to go in with 15,000 advance
     sales.  But we are a week away and we don't know the
     dynamics of the marketplace.  We'll see.  We learned about
     markets in other cities as we went along."  Logan added that
     he has been "disappointed by the New York/New Jersey
     MetroStars' total of 4,000 season tickets."  Logan: "I urged
     all of our teams to get an early start on season-ticket
     sales for this season, and some started last August.  The
     MetroStars waited until December, which was disturbing, but
     some of that had to do with ongoing discussions about Giants
     Stadium."  Dell'Apa calls this "a season for MLS to maintain
     some equilibrium."  While competing against the World Cup in
     France, MLS "should concentrate on increasing attendance in
     questionable markets such as" K.C. and "be certain" the MLS
     Cup in Pasadena on October 25 is a "showpiece event" (BOSTON
     GLOBE, 3/10).  Logan said that the Revolution is tops in
     league season ticket sales with 5,500, while 35,000 season
     tickets have been sold league-wide (USA TODAY, 3/10).
          LOOK, UP ON THE BIG SCREEN: MLS is planning in-stadium
     doubleheaders with a World Cup game shown on the Jumbotron
     via a TV feed before a league game (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).

          NBA: In N.Y., Ian O'Connor writes under the header,
     "Trouble Brewing In NBA: Face Lockout, No Jordan."  He
     writes that the NBA "is about to suffer a crisis of
     charisma" and as NBA Exec Dir Billy Hunter has "established
     himself as a worthy opponent" to NBA Commissioner David
     Stern, the union is "more galvanized than ever."  The
     "marriage of employer and employee, a partnership built on
     trust, grows more frayed by the hour" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
     3/10)....UNC junior/ACC Player of the Year Antawn Jamison
     said that an NBA work stoppage would impact his decision to
     turn pro a year early: "I don't want to sit out while the
     college season is going on" (Mult., 3/10).
          NHL: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote that with NHL
     VP/Operations Brian Burke likely leaving his post this
     summer, "names being bandied about" to succeed him include
     Isles GM Mike Milbury and former Canadiens GM Serge Savard. 
     Dupont floats former Bruins Coach Terry O'Reilly for the
     post (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/8)....On ESPN, Michael Wilbon decried
     "thuggery" in the NHL and noted the Ducks' Paul Kariya may
     miss the rest of the season due to a concussion from a hit
     by the Blackhawks' Gary Suter, who was suspended for four
     games, Wilbon said, "What good is any league if it won't
     protect its No. 1 asset, its best players? ... One would
     hope that the NHL powers that be, who've allowed this ugly
     environment to exist, will wake up and listen up before
     anyone else is so seriously and needlessly injured" ("The
     Sports Reporters," 3/8)....In N.Y., Dave Anderson writes on
     "Hockey's Concussion Concern" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).

          Title sponsorship of the WTA Tour is being offered for
     $25M over three years, which "may seem a bit pricey compared
     with" the three-year, $12M deal that departing sponsor Corel
     paid in rights fees, according to Terry Lefton of BRANDWEEK. 
     Lefton: "But WTA rights broker, IMG, Cleveland, has
     repackaged the sponsorship in proportion with what it claims
     is a remarkable 11 billion impressions over a year's worth
     of TV broadcasts to more than 20 countries."  The Tour has
     "increased in-game sponsor ID with the addition of sponsor-
     branded statistical and scoring updates, and an additional
     dedicated camera specifically designed to catch sponsor
     exposure vehicles. ... Also included is a grass roots
     program, the usual hospitality and tickets and the tour's
     close working relationship with its players." Virtual
     signage could also be added if the concept is "high" on a
     sponsor's list.   Lefton adds the price is "likely to raise
     a few eyebrows."  WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire: "We have some
     really marketable athletes and I really feel ($25 million
     is) relatively inexpensive for a year-round property that is
     the most global of any women's sport" (BRANDWEEK, 3/9).