Major League Volleyball Nets Minor Interest : Only 254 Show Up for Match at Grossmont; San Diego Investor Shies Away

Major League Volleyball, playing in front of 254 at Grossmont College, made a less than auspicious debut in San Diego Tuesday night.

That kind of crowd--who watched the New York Liberties defeat the Chicago Breeze, 15-8, 15-4, 7-15, 15-11--isn’t likely to interest potential investors in bringing a franchise to San Diego.

The match was played in San Diego in hopes of persuading local banker John DuPuy to buy into an expansion or relocated franchise.

DuPuy expressed interest in the two-year-old women’s professional league several months ago but since has cooled to the idea. He did not attend Tuesday night’s event.


Attending the match, however, was Doug Beal, coach of the 1984 U.S. men’s Olympic team, which won a gold medal. When DuPuy was researching the prospects of purchasing a team, Beal, who lives in San Diego, said he was ready to become a minor partner and lend his technical expertise.

Despite the sparse crowd, Beal said: “I still think a franchise in San Diego would be good. I think the city would support it. But they’ve got to put more money into promotion. I don’t think the league can grow simply through a good product. That’s obviously important, but it has to be promoted.”

Though DuPuy’s interest has decreased, Lee Meade, league director of operations, said he would like to see a franchise in San Diego.

“It’s a location we’ve looked at with great interest,” he said.


Meade said the league’s six franchises--in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis and San Jose--lost about $1.3 million in 1987.

This year, with one franchise relocated--Dallas to Phoenix-- he said the losses will be “half that, and Minnesota and San Jose will come close to breaking even.”

Part of the difference is because of corporate sponsorship by DHL Worldwide Couriers, which invested several hundred thousand dollars, Meade said.

Minnesota leads the league in attendance with an average of 2,000 per match.


In its first two years, franchises were operated by the league. That will change next season, with teams owned and operated by individual investors.

Owners have been secured for San Jose, Minnesota and New York, Meade said. He said expansion is possible and relocation probable.

“It’s not likely that we will remain in Los Angeles,” he said. “It’s our top-drawing team on the road, but their attendance has been the poorest in the league the last two years.”

He said investors in Atlanta and Milwaukee have expressed interest in expansion franchises. A decision on whether to expand will be made in three weeks.


Los Angeles won the league title last year in a five-game championship match victory over San Jose.

Los Angeles also has won this year’s regular-season championship. With its victory over Chicago, New York clinched the final postseason berth and will join Los Angeles, Minnesota and San Jose in the playoffs, May 19-21 in Minneapolis.

Using an innovative approach, the league pays each player about $5,200. A woman can then earn bonus money by leading the league in various statistical categories and by helping her team into the playoffs.

Last year, 1984 Olympians Rita Crockett Royster of Los Angeles and Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli of San Jose earned more than $18,000 each.


“This has been a tough road, and it’s hard to make it go,” said Robert Battanovich, a real estate developer from Redwood City who puts up most of the money to operate the league. “But the players have never been a problem. They never give you a hassle. All they want to do is make it happen.”

Though there were few in attendance, New York and Chicago put on a good show.

With player/coach Mary Jo Peppler sidelined by a severely sprained ankle, New York relied on Sandy Aughinbaugh, a former U.S. national team member who attends law school at the University of San Diego.

New York’s Aughinbaugh had 23 kills, and Nina Matthies, one of the best beach players in the game and the head coach at Pepperdine, had 15.