Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Volleyball’ Category

1987-1991 Minnesota Monarchs

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Minnesota MonarchsMajor League Volleyball (1987-1989)
Independent (1990)

Born: November 25, 1986 – MLV founding franchise.
Died: 1991


Team Colors:

  • Home: Navy Blue & White
  • Away: Scarlet & White



The Minnesota Monarchs were the most popular team in Major League Volleyball, a largely forgotten attempt to start an all-women’s pro volleyball circuit in the United States in the late 1980’s.  (The previous attempt at a pro volleyball league – the International Volleyball Association of the 1970’s – was co-ed).

The Monarchs were one of six original franchises when MLV debuted in early 1987.  The league had a cable TV contract with ESPN, which provided some national exposure and succeeded in signing top Olympic players of the era from the U.S. and Canada.   The Monarchs were the best draw in the league, averaging around 2,000 fans per match in the Twin Cities.

The team was a doormat at first, finishing 4-14 during the league’s inaugural season of 1987.  In 1988, the team improved to 16-6.  The team improved to 16-6 in 1988, thanks in part to the acquisition of former Fresno State star Ruth Lawanson, who was the Monarchs’ top attacking player and won Major League Volleyball MVP honors in 1988.

In 1989 the Monarchs were off to a stellar 9-0 start, when the rest of the league imploded around them.  While the Monarchs were a decent draw in Minneapolis, Major League Volleyball’s anchor teams in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York were nearly invisible and taking large losses.  The owners voted to shut down the league in late March 1989, less than halfway through the planned regular season schedule.

Major League Volleyball was dead, but the Monarchs lived on for two more years largely thanks to the perseverance of veteran minor league promoter Lee Meade (ABA, WHA, World Team Tennis, among other stops), who served as a league executive during the Major League Volleyball years.  Meade announced that the Monarchs announced they were part of something called the Women’s International Volleyball League, but in fact there was no such thing.  The “league” designation was window dressing for an exhibition schedule that saw the Monarchs barnstorm Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin, playing matches against the University of Manitoba, the “Legends of Beach Volleyball”, and touring clubs from Holland, Japan and the Soviet Union.

It appears the Monarchs faded from existence sometime in 1991, after a second barnstorming season.


==In Memoriam==

Monarchs All-Star Judy Bellomo (1988-1989) died of cancer at age 23 on January 24, 1990.

Monarchs General Manager and chief promoter Lee Meade passed away on December 29, 2010 at age 82 of complications from diabetes.



It’s Not Exactly The Midas Touch” – November 1990 Sports Illustrated profile of Monarchs executive Lee Meade.

Major League Volleyball Programs


Written by andycrossley

September 5th, 2013 at 12:24 am

1987-1989 Los Angeles Starlites

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Major League Volleyball (1987-1989)

Born: November 25, 1986 – MLV founding franchise.
Died: March 20, 1989 – Major League Volleyball folds in midseason.


  • 1987-1988: Golden West College
  • 1987-1988: Cal-State Long Beach
  • 1987-1988: Gersten Pavilion at Loyola Marymount
  • 1989: Bren Events Center  (5,000)

Team Colors:


  • 1987-1988: Major League Volleyball
  • 1989: George Corey, et al.


The Los Angeles Starlites were a dominant but disorganized franchise in Major League Volleyball, a short-lived all-female pro volleyball league that played parts of three seasons from 1987 to 1989.

The league was organized in late 1986 by attorney and former sports agent R. Steven Arnold, who was previously involved in the doomed World Football League of the 1970’s.  The league started with six franchises, making sure to include the key media markets of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York in a bid to secure national sponsors and television.  And MLV did, in fact, succeed in securing a cable TV contract with ESPN.  But it was the three big cities where the league fared the worst, and nowhere in more embarrassing fashion than Los Angeles.

The Starlites were dominant on the court.  They won both of Major League Volleyball’s league championships (1987 & 1988) and compiled a 36-8 regular season record during the league’s first two seasons.  The level of play in Major League Volleyball was quite high and the Starlites featured three silver medalists from the 1984 U.S. Olympic squad, including Jeanne Beauprey-Reeves, Rita Crockett-Royster and Debbie Green-Vargas.

At first, MLV was a single-entity league, with all clubs owned by the league’s management.  The Starlites were notoriously poorly managed, failing to secure a permanent home court or communicate with their fans where they would be playing each week as they bounced between a succession of local college gyms.  While the Major League Volleyball franchise in Minneapolis averaged close to 2,000 fans per match, the Starlites played to crowds that sometimes numbered fewer than 100 fans, many of whom were friends or acquaintances of the players.

Prior to the league’s third season, the franchises were sold off to individual owners.  A group of four investors, led by George Corey, took over the Starlites and attempted to bring some rational thought to the operation, starting with a permanent lease at UC-Irvine’s Bren Events Center.  But by the time Major League Volleyball kicked off its third season in February 1989, the league was in terminal condition.  In late March, one-third of the way through the regular season schedule, the franchise owners compared notes and determined there was no point in continuing.

Major League Volleyball abruptly closed down in late March 1989 with only one third of the season complete.  The Starlites averaged 592 spectators per match at the Bren Center during their final abbreviated season.


Written by andycrossley

September 4th, 2013 at 3:19 am

1979-1980 Salt Lake City Stingers

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International Volleyball Association (1979-1980)

Born: 1979
Died: July 1980 – The IVA folds in mid-season.

Arena: The Salt Palace

Team Colors:

Owner: Don Sammis


The Salt Lake City Stingers were a brief entry in the International Volleyball Association (1975-1980), a West Coast-based co-ed pro volleyball league during the 1970’s.  The team formed in early 1979, announced as the merger of the former Orange County Stars and San Diego Breakers franchises.  Whereas some IVA teams played in small high school arenas, the Stingers played their home matches in the 12,000-seat Salt Palace, which was also home to the Jazz of the NBA, newly arrived from New Orleans.

For the 1979 season, the Stingers signed a pair of top Olympians in Fernando de Avila (Brazil) and Stan Gosciniak (Poland), one of the world’s premier setters.  But the club would lose Gosciniak midway through the season when the Community government of Poland called him home to coach a university team.  The Stingers finished 17-23 and out of postseason consideration.

In August 1979, The Deseret News reported that the Stingers averaged about 2,000 fans per match with about 400 season ticket holders.  These were viewed as relatively strong numbers by IVA standards and good enough for the team to plan on a second season.

But the IVA limped into its sixth season in May 1980 buffeted by a host of existential crises.  The league got a black eye the previous summer when the owners of one of the league’s flagship clubs, the Denver Comets, were arrested for running a major drug trafficking operation.  Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan deprived the IVA of a major promotional platform that investors had counted on for years.  The league featured top male and female Olympians from all over the world.  And finally there was the condition of the franchises themselves, many of which were underfunded and bordering on insolvency.  The Seattle Smashers club folded just days before the 1980 season opened, forcing the schedule to be re-worked.  Teams in San Jose and Santa Barbara shut down midway through the season.

“We were probably the most solvent <team>, not because we were selling a lot of tickets, but because of the deep pockets of our owner, a San Diego-based real estate mogul named Don Sammis,” former Stingers GM Tony Lovitt told FWiL in 2011.  “It was Sammis who, after the IVA folded, continued to be a benefactor of volleyball, attracting the USA men’s volleyball team to San Diego to train for the 1984 Olympics.”

In July 1980, with the league gasping its final breaths, the Stingers declined to travel to Denver for a scheduled match. That was effectively the end for the Stingers.  The rest of the IVA followed within a day or two.


Written by andycrossley

February 15th, 2013 at 6:23 pm

1977-1980 Tucson Sky

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International Volleyball Association (1977-1980)

Born: 1977
Died: July 1980 – The IVA folds in midseason.

Arena: Catalina High School Gymnasium (3,444)

Team Colors: Light Blue, Black & White

Owners: Douglas Clark, Burt Kinerk, et al.


The Tucson Sky were a franchise in the co-ed International Volleyball Association from 1977 until the league disbanded in the middle of the 1980 season.  The Sky followed an earlier failed IVA team in Tucson – the Tucson Turquoise – who played for a single season in 1976 before folding.

After a last place 11-25 finish in their debut season of 1977, the Sky appeared in the IVA championshi series in both 1978 and 1979.  Both times they faced the Santa Barbara Spikers.  The Spikers took the crown in 1978, but the Sky evened the score in 1979 and won what would prove to be the final championship of the IVA.

The Sky returned for a fourth season in the summer of 1980, but by then IVA was hobbled by weak franchises in other cities and demoralized by Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 U.S. Olympics.  The Olympics were expected to give a profile boost to both men’s and women’s volleyball and serve as a platform for the IVA’s brand new cable deal with the fledgling ESPN network.  Instead, the league folded in July 1980 shortly before what was intended to be the All-Star Break.

“We were about two years ahead of the times,” Sky owner Doug Clark told Corky Simpson of The Tucson Citizen in 2000.  “If the league could have held out just two more years, I believe we would have been a smash hit on cable television.”

The Sky were known for a never ending parade of wacky promotions under General Manager Bob Garrett.  Click on the link to Corky Simpson’s Tucson Citizen article above for an entertaining recap of Garrett’s greatest hits.

Among the notable players to suit up for the Sky was 6′ 7″ former Phoenix Suns NBA player Scott English, who was also one of the top player in the IVA during the late 1970’s.



The Sky defeat the Santa Barbara Spikers for the last championship of the IVA in August 1979.



Corky Simpson’s Tucson Citizen retrospective from August 2000.

International Volleyball Association Media Guides

International Volleyball Association Programs

Written by andycrossley

February 12th, 2013 at 6:04 pm

1979-1980 San Jose Diablos

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International Volleyball Association (1979-1980)

Born: January 1979 – IVA expansion franchise.
Died: June 12, 1980 – The Diablos fold in mid-season.


Team Colors:

Owner: Jim Blair


The San Jose Diablos were a co-ed professional volleyball team that played parts of two seasons in the International Volleyball Association (1975-1980).  The Diablos folded abruptly on June 12, 1980 only 12 games into the club’s second season of play.  The entire IVA followed suit one month later, collapsing shortly before the league’s scheduled All-Star break.

38-year old Carlos Feitosa, who played for Brazil in the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympics, was the Diablos’ player-coach during the 1979 season.  The team went 13-27 in 1979, for the second worst record in the seven-team IVA.

If you can provide more information on this team, please email



1979 San Jose Diablos Roster


Written by andycrossley

February 9th, 2013 at 2:58 pm