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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The ABL's motto this season was "Real Basketball," and
     its championship final on Sunday "showed that the ABL could
     live up to its own hype," according to Mel Greenberg of the
     PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.  But "despite the ABL's superior
     play, it is still an open question whether the league will
     be able to withstand the marketing punch and deep pockets"
     of the WNBA.  Greenberg writes that the ABL must continue to
     sign the top talent out of college and "must guard against
     incursions among current pros."  But the league "has done
     well at fostering loyalty among the 35 key players it signed
     in its start-up phase," as the Rage's Dawn Staley and the
     Blizzard's Jennifer Rizzotti "are the only unsigned players
     in that group."  In Philadelphia, the Rage drew 3,238,
     "about the same" as the 3,139 it drew when it played in
     Richmond.  But Rage GM Cathy Andruzzi said revenues were up
     40% over last year (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/19).  A
     COLUMBUS DISPATCH editorial: "The ABL is the underdog of the
     two leagues in terms of marketing and promotion, but the
     clear winner in terms of muscle and overall performance"
     (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/17).  In Boston, Susan Bickelhaupt
     writes that while the ABL is "pleased" with the results that
     show a 23% increase in league-wide attendance over last
     year, there are "still challenges for the league's third
     season."  ABL COO and co-Founder Steve Hams said that more
     TV coverage, an earlier season and an expanded league "are
     all on the agenda" for next season (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/19).  
          RECRUITMENT: USA TODAY's Valerie Lister examines the
     recruitment of college players by the WNBA and ABL during
     the NCAA Women's Final Four in Kansas City, MO.  Both
     leagues will have player reps on-site and also hold parties. 
     The ABL will have a forum to educate players, coaches and
     fans about the league.  The WNBA will sponsor a clinic for
     elementary school children (USA TODAY, 3/19). 

          In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan reports that the "lead
     item" at next week's NFL owners meetings in Orlando will be
     the reinstatement of instant replay to review officials'
     calls.  NFL Senior VP/Communications Joe Browne said the
     competition committee's latest proposal "would allow the on-
     field referee to review only calls that are challenged by
     one of the head coaches" (INQUIRER, 3/19)....No golfer has
     petitioned the PGA Tour Board for the right to use a golf
     cart in tournaments.  Davis Love, one of the Board's player
     directors, "expects peer pressure to help keep players from
     asking for carts" (Clifton Brown, N.Y. TIMES, 3/19)....In
     San Diego, Mark Zeigler previewed MLS's third season and
     wrote that "some would have you believe this is a make-or-
     break year" for MLS.  Zeigler: "It isn't.  It is an
     important season, yes.  But 1998 is more about survival than
     success, more about hanging around outside the big dance
     than buying a ticket to go in" (UNION-TRIBUNE, 3/18).

          MLB's Ownership Committee granted Marlins President Don
     Smiley "initial approval" to purchase the team, according to
     Craig Barnes of the Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL.  Final
     approval is contingent on MLB's full examination and
     ownership endorsement.  Smiley: "It's more than a vote of
     confidence.  It's a strong endorsement."  Barnes: "There are
     indications that Smiley might seek resolution at the owners'
     meetings in June" (Ft. Lauderdale SUN-SENTINEL, 3/19). 
          LEAVE IT TO BEAVER: In MN, La Velle Neal writes that
     prospective Twins Owner Don Beaver "acknowledged Wednesday
     that if stadium funding isn't secured" in NC, it could
     "kill" his deal to buy the team.  Beaver: "You can't approve
     a relocation without a place to play."  Neal adds that the
     comments "acknowledged" what other MLB officials have been
     "saying for months: The decision to move the Twins can't be
     made until a May 5 referendum in two North Carolina counties
     in the Triad area."  Beaver also dismissed a previously
     announced March 31 deadline to sign a deal with Twins Owner
     Carl Pohlad: "I don't know if March 31 is of any
     significance. ... We are not worried about deadlines or
     anything like that" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/19).  
          NOTES: Frank Robinson will address owners today about
     speeding up the game.  One idea is to have umpires keep
     hitters in the batters box and make pitchers deliver the
     ball within 12 seconds when there are no runners on
     base....Red Sox CEO John Harrington said a schedule has been
     completed for the '99 season that includes "much the same
     schedule for interleague play."  It must be approved by the
     MLBPA (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/13).  MLBPA Exec Dir
     Donald Fehr said he expects interleague play to continue in
     '99, with some "refinement" to avoid the "abundance of two-
     game series teams were forced to play" in '97 and this
     season.  Fehr: "The basic belief is it is a good thing.  But
     there are complications" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/19).

          Braves Owner Ted Turner "wasted no time beginning his
     assault" on potential Dodgers Owner Rupert Murdoch,
     addressing a group of MLB owners Wednesday in St. Petersburg
     "on why the head of the Fox Group shouldn't be allowed into
     baseball," according to I.J. Rosenberg of the ATLANTA
     CONSTITUTION.  Rosenberg: "It was a restrained attack, no
     fiery speech from the Time-Warner vice chairman but instead
     a five-minute synopsis of why his rival Murdoch wouldn't be
     good for baseball."  After the meeting, Turner followed the
     guidelines of Acting Commissioner Bud Selig in not talking
     publicly until after today's vote on the matter: "It's not
     that I don't want to talk.  I just got to keep quiet right
     now."  The Dodgers sale requires approval from 12 of 16 NL
     teams and 8 of 14 AL squads.  Turner has "two votes in his
     camp," coming from the Padres and Giants, "meaning he would
     have to persuade two other clubs to say no."  Rosenberg
     writes, "This is not likely to happen," as Turner "has
     little, if any influence among the game's power brokers." 
     Rockies Chair Jerry McMorris, on today's vote: "It's going
     to be very, very close" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/19).  USA
     TODAY's Hal Bodley writes that "one theory" on Selig's gag
     order is that if the sale is not approved, "public comments
     might be used in litigation" (USA TODAY, 3/19).
          COUNTING THE VOTES: DAILY VARIETY's Ray Richmond writes
     that in addition to the Padres, Cubs and Giants, both the
     Astros and Marlins are "said to be particularly vulnerable
     to Turner's anti-Murdoch venom" (DAILY VARIETY, 3/19).  But
     in N.Y., Bill Madden writes the Dodgers sale is expected to
     win "overwhelming approval."  One "high-level" MLB official:
     "Do you really think we're going to vote down baseball's
     biggest benefactor?" (Bill Madden, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/19). 
          THE QUIET "MOUTH FROM THE SOUTH"? One member who
     attended yesterday's meeting said Turner "made his points
     that he's against [the sale to Murdoch]. ... There were no
     real fireworks.  I've been to far more inflammatory sessions
     than this one."  The session lasted an hour-and-a-half. 
     Owners "will get another chance Thursday to express their
     views" before the sale is put to a vote (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19). 
          CUTTING TO THE CHASE: In L.A., Ross Newhan writes that
     Fox TV CEO Chase Carey, "working at times in conjunction
     with [MLB] lawyers, met throughout the day and evening
     Wednesday with several concerned clubs."  They "agreed to
     small changes ... in the language of the agreement that Fox
     has made with baseball (separate from the sales agreement
     with the Dodgers), strengthening assurances the Murdoch
     organization would protect the Dodger image and abide by all
     baseball regulations, particularly those governing
     international and local telecasts" (L.A. TIMES, 3/19).
          FALLOUT: Turner's appearance in St. Petersburg was
     featured on CNN's "Moneyline" and CNBC's "The Edge," "Market
     Wrap" and "Business Center."  Ladenburg-Thalmann media
     specialist Porter Bibb, who wrote a biography on Turner:
     "Turner and Murdoch have been going at it for quite a long
     time. ... Both of them are very emotional, very competitive
     individuals, and they both respect the fact that of all the
     people in media and entertainment, these are the two guys
     who have taken their businesses globally further and faster
     than anybody else in the world."  CNBC's Garrett Glaser
     reported that Bibb said that "if Turner loses in Florida and
     Murdoch is approved ... a new template of corporate sports
     ownership will be established" ("The Edge," CNBC, 3/18). 
     USA TODAY's cover story profiles Turner and Murdoch, as
     David Lieberman writes the "feud could explode -- and
     possibly have a lasting effect on sports and business -- if
     Turner gets his way" (USA TODAY, 3/19).  In Atlanta, Jeff
     Schultz: "In some ways, the Turner-Murdoch feud has typified
     baseball's infighting for years.  The new owner should fit
     right in" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/19).
 

          U.S. Soccer President Alan Rothenberg has appointed a
     seven-person committee to study the development of women's
     professional soccer in the U.S.  The Women's Professional
     Soccer Development Committee will analyze and develop
     strategies to help grow the sport in the U.S. and will be in
     charge of implementing the ground work for an eventual
     women's professional soccer league in the U.S.  The seven-
     member committee will be chaired by Dr. Bob Contingulia, who
     serves on the WWC Board of Directors and is a member of the
     USSF National Board of Directors.  Other members are: David
     Askinas, member of the USSF National Board of Directors;
     Bill Goaziou, member of WWC Board of Directors; Sunil
     Gulati, MLS Deputy Commissioner and member of WWC Board of
     Directors; Mary Harvey-Capobianco, member of USSF National
     Board of Directors Exec Committee; Pam Kopple, USSF Women's
     Development Special Committee Chair and Marla Messing, WWC
     '99 Organizing Committee President & COO (U.S. Soccer).
          ONE VOTE: USA TODAY's Jerry Langdon writes that "there
     should be first-division [women's] soccer now.  And work
     should begin now on such a league for immediately after the
     1999 World Cup."  Langdon notes the new U.S. Soccer study
     committee and writes, "U.S. Soccer was not behind the
     earlier, failed attempt by National Soccer Alliance.  Its
     active participation is long overdue" (USA TODAY, 3/19).