Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘IVA’ tag

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.

Salt Lake Stingers Volleyball

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.

 

==Links==

International Volleyball Association Media Guides

International Volleyball Association Programs

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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.

 

==YouTube==

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

 

==Links==

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.

Arena:

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 andy@funwhileitlasted.net

San Jose Diablos

 

==Downloads==

1979 San Jose Diablos Roster

 

==Links==

International Volleyball Association Media Guides

International Volleyball Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

February 9th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

1979-1980 Albuquerque Lasers

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International Volleyball Association (1979-1980)

Born: January 1979 – IVA expansion franchise.
Died: 1980

Arena: Albuquerque Civic Auditorium

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

We don’t know a whole lot about the Albuquerque Lasers, a team that played parts of two seasons in the co-ed International Volleyball Association (1975-1980) during the summers of 1979 and 1980.  The club began life as an expansion franchise in January 1979.

The IVA folded in July 1980 midway through its sixth season, taking the Lasers down with it.

NBA Hall-of-Famer Wilt Chamberlain played in three matches for the Lasers in 1979, although apparently he only made one appearance in Albuquerque.  Chamberlain was involved with the league from its inception in 1975, serving as Commissioner during the late 1970’s and also making cameo appearances for various clubs between 1975 and 1979.  The Lasers were the last club he suited up for.

If you can provide any additional information about this club, please andy@funwhileitlasted.net

 

 

==In Memoriam==

Occasional Laser Wilt Chamberlain died on October 12, 1999 at age 63.

 

==Downloads==

1979 Albuquerque Lasers Roster

 

==Links==

International Volleyball Association Media Guides

International Volleyball Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

February 7th, 2013 at 8:04 pm

1978-1979 Seattle Smashers

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International Volleyball Association (1978-1979)

Born: 1977 – IVA expansion franchise.
Died: May 1980 – The Smashers cease operations.

Arena: Seattle Center Arena (4,500)

Team Colors: Camel & Navy

Owner: Bob Mussehl

 

The Seattle Smashers were a co-ed professional volleyball franchise that lasted for two summer seasons in Seattle in 1978 and 1979.  The Smashers formed in March 1977 as an expansion franchise in the International Volleyball Association (1975-1980) and had a 15-month ramp up to their debut in June 1978.

Seattle personal injury attorney Bob Mussehl was the majority owner.  Mussehl got into the Seattle sports scene after Seattle Supersonics star Spencer Haywood suffered a knee injury in a slip-and-fall case in the Seattle Center Coliseum.  After representing Haywood in the lawsuit, Mussehl became his agent and then gained the business of several other stars of the Supersonics teams of the late 1970’s, including Zaid Abdul-Aziz, Fred Brown and Slick Watts.

It was Abdul-Aziz, according to this 2008 article bySeattle Post-Intelligencer reporterDan Raley, who talked up the idea of a pro volleyball franchise to Mussehl.  (Abdul-Aziz would become a minority partner in the club).

The basketball theme continued when the fledgling Smashers announced in February 1978 that 41-year old NBA superstar Wilt Chamberlain agreed to the first half of the 1978 season – 15 matches – with Seattle.  Chamberlain was already the Commissioner of the IVA and had previously suited up intermittently for other clubs in the the league.  He planned to leave the Smashers at mid-season to concentrate on his league administrative duties, whatever those might have been.

Chamberlain, however, backed out of the agreement after playing just a single match in the Camel & Navy colored uniform of the Smashers.  Chamberlain played for Seattle on June 1, 1978 in a home game against the Tucson Sky at the 4,500-seat Seattle Center Arena.

Chamberlain’s appearances in the IVA were always something of a sideshow.  Beyond Chamberlain, the Smashers had some truly world class volleyball players, including the Polish Olympian Stan Gosciniak, regarded as one of the best setters in the world, the former UC-Santa Barbara All-American Jeff Reddan and the team’s female star Linda Fernandez, who had some notoriety as a two-time winner of ABC’s multi-sport Superstars competition for women.  The IVA required that two female players be on the floor at all times.

After several years of modest growth on the West Coast highlighted, perhaps, by the national broadcast of the league’s 1977 All-Star Game on CBS television, the league started to suffer some body blows at the end of the decade.  In August 1979, the office of the IVA”s Denver Comets franchise and the homes of several employees were raided in a drug sting.  The Comets were one of the league’s flagship clubs, but it turned out the team’s owners were running a massive, multi-state cocaine and marijuana trafficking ring out of the front office.

The death blow came the following winter when President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.  The league featured Olympians from all over the world and were counting on the games as a major promotional platform.  The league also expected a TV contract on the fledgling ESPN network coming off of the Olympics.  The American pullout deflated the league.  Owners pushed forward half-heartedly with a 1980 season, but several clubs folded after just a month and ultimately the entire league shutdown without managing to complete the 1980 schedule.

The Seattle Smashers were the first club to fall by the wayside after the Olympic boycott.  The Smashers ran out of money and folded in early May 1980, on the eve of what would have been their third season.  (You can see in the pocket schedule above that the team had already printed up promotional material for a 1980 season, which was never played).

==Downloads==

1978 Seattle Smashers Preseason Roster

 

==Links==

International Volleyball Association Media Guides

International Volleyball Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 9th, 2013 at 6:33 pm