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Volume 24 No. 155

Leagues Governing Bodies

          NJ high school basketball player Al Harrington said
     Monday that he will skip college and make himself eligible
     for the NBA Draft, according to Michael Amsel of the ASBURY
     PARK PRESS.  Harrington, 18, said he reached the decision on
     Saturday after a "heated debate" with his mother, Mona
     Lawton, who wanted him to attend Seton Hall.  Harrington
     said he is going is to sign with an agent today, and Amsel
     writes that the "most likely choice appears to be Eric
     Fleischer," who handles Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury. 
     Harrington said he talked to Garnett for advice: "Kevin told
     me he is having the time of his life.  But he said, 'Be
     prepared to really work'" (ASBURY PARK PRESS, 5/12).
          DOES THE GAME SUFFER? In Philadelphia, John Smallwood
     writes under the header, "Child's Play Hurting Quality Of
     NBA Game."  He writes that the NBA's declining skill level
     "has become a serious problem," as today's young players
     lack the proper fundamentals, which "is visibly hurting the
     NBA product" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/12).
          BOBBY'S CAMEO: In Atlanta, Terence Moore questions why
     top college coaches like John Thompson, Roy Williams, Dean
     Smith and Bobby Cremins, among others, agreed to appear in
     Spike Lee's "He Got Game."  Moore: "What were they
     thinking?"  But he adds that Cremins and others may have
     been "ambushed" by Lee.  Cremins said that while at a camp
     in NJ last year, Lee came up to him and asked if he could
     shoot a scene for his movie.  Cremins: "I said sure, and my
     line was, 'I've seen Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson --
     but Jesus is better.'  Being Catholic, I felt bad about
     saying something about Jesus, but I just trusted Spike" 
     (Terence Moore, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/12).

          IRL: On SPEEDNET, Bill Koenig writes that for IRL team
     owners, the "hunt continues for sponsors."  While there has
     been an increase of sponsorship spending on the league
     level, teams are "hoping to see more spending at their
     level."  IEG estimates that IRL will draw $101M in
     sponsorships this year, not including Pep Boys' title
     sponsorship deal and Pepsi's deal as the Official Soft Drink
     of the IRL and IMS (Bill Koenig, SPEEDNET, 5/12).  IRL
     Founder Tony George, at the Indy 500 trials: "The league is
     coming into its own.  We're right where we should be.  We
     have had a record number of (Indy 500) entries because our
     equipment is affordable" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/11).   
          COULD NAFTA HELP HOCKEY? Toronto trade lawyer Barry
     Appleton is scheduled to appear today before the House of
     Commons subcommittee studying sport in Canada and will argue
     that NAFTA can be applied to assist Canadian NHL franchises
     (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 5/12).  But Dexter Bishop, spokesperson for
     Canada's Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Int'l Trade, said
     "NAFTA looks after goods, services and investment, not
     sports" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/12)....The ECHL has awarded
     its '99 All-Star Game and Skills Competition to the MS Sea
     Wolves.  The events will be held January 12 and January 13
     at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum (ECHL). 
          GIANTS EXEC DISPUTES BORAS: MLB Giants Assistant GM Ned
     Colletti yesterday denied that he had made any monetary
     "offer or pledge" to J.D. Drew before last June's amateur
     draft.  Drew's agent, Scott Boras, has testified that the
     Giants were one of the teams that had contacted him and made
     overtures about Drew (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/12).

          During media day for the WNBA Liberty yesterday at the
     Reebok Club in Manhattan, Rebecca Lobo expressed hope that a
     players' union would soon be formed, according to Ackert &
     Garcia of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS.  Lobo: "We don't need it to
     demand million-dollar salaries like the NBA, but we need it
     for the little reasons.  We need it to make sure the lowest
     players are paid a little more than $5,000 a year and guard
     against agents.  Right now we don't have anyone to certify
     agents" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12).  Lobo added that "many" of
     the players' two-year contracts will expire after this year,
     making the time ripe to unionize.  WNBA President Val
     Ackerman said the unionization process "is a player
     decision.  The whole issue and when is a good time is
     entirely up to the players.  Our approach would be to try to
     be constructive" (AP/DETROIT NEWS, 5/12).  
          TICKET SALES: At media day, the Liberty said they have
     sold more than 5,500 season tickets, with pre-season set to
     start in 19 days on May 31 (N.Y. POST, 5/12).

          A team of MLB All-Stars will travel to Japan this
     November to play a series of games against Japanese teams.
     The '98 tour will consist of eight games played between
     November 6-15 in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Osaka, Japan.  MLB All-
     Stars will play seven games against a team of Japanese All-
     Stars, and play one against the Yomiuri Giants.  All games
     will be broadcast live in Japan on Nippon TV.  The MLB All-
     Star participants will be announced later this summer.  The
     MLB team toured Japan most recently in '96 (MLB).
          TELL IT TO THE KING: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig
     had no comment regarding a report on Monday by Larry King
     that Selig would be named permanent commissioner by year's
     end.  Selig: "I have made my feelings very well-known for
     six years" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/12).

          Michael Ovitz's bid for an NFL team in L.A. was
     examined by CNN's Casey Wian on "Moneyline."  Sports
     management consultant David Carter: "Michael Ovitz brings
     three major things to the table that the NFL likes ...
     political savvy, business connections and a tremendous
     amount of money.  His war chest of $750 million, when
     combined with his connections here locally, make him a very
     formative player."  Ovitz declined to comment for CNN.  Wian
     added that Ovitz "also faces formidable obstacles,
     environmental problems, for one," and the presence of the
     L.A. Coliseum which has its own proposal for a renovated
     stadium with luxury boxes.  L.A. City Councilmember Mark
     Ridley-Thomas, on the New Coliseum Partners: "We are
     cheaper.  We can build it quicker. ... We're the game in
     town to beat, and as near as I can tell, no one has put
     together the wherewithal to do that" ("Moneyline," 5/11).
          UNION BOSS: NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw is featured in a
     Q&A by USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell, who writes, "Yes, these are
     good times for Upshaw, who has survived harsh criticism,
     skepticism and even dissent within the ranks to sustain his
     position longer than any current players' union chief." 
     Upshaw says the NFLPA is now "worth more than" $70M, and its
     Players Inc arm has "become worth more than" $30M in three
     years.  Upshaw said that over the past five or six years the
     union has worked with the league "to do what's best for the
     game.  For once, we all understand that it's not a
     competition between the players and the owners, that the
     other sports are the real competition" (USA TODAY, 5/12).
          AGENT TO SUE? MA-based agent Jack Mula is "considering"
     suing the NFL to change its rules which prohibits a college
     player from taking part in minicamp until his class has
     graduated -- even if the player has completed his degree
     requirements.  Mula said the rule hurts late-round draft
     picks and free agents who "have to get to camp and show what
     they can do right away" (Nick Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 5/12).