Major League Volleyball was a women's professional volleyball league in the United States. It was established in 1987 and disbanded during its third season on March 20, 1989.
The league launched in 1987 with six teams consisting of nine players per team, most of them former Olympians or college All-Americans. According to Commissioner Steve Arnold, each MLV player made a base salary of $5,500 a season. Bonuses were awarded to teams for each victory and for finishing in the top three, and to players for excelling in one of six statistical categories. For example, the team that won the first league championship got $25,000. A player who was best in serving aces got an extra $3,000. The egalitarian pay scale made contract negotiations unnecessary.
In addition, there were no independent team owners during the first two years of competition. There was what amounted to six major shareholders. "It was a concept I developed through having operated pro sports leagues and teams," says Arnold, an attorney who previously was a sports agent and was involved with the World Football League, American Basketball Association, World Hockey Association and World Team Tennis.
The MLV draft was open to any American players who doesn't have collegiate eligibility and doesn't play for a pro league in another country or on the U.S. national volleyball team. Through a trust agreement with the USVBL, the players retained their Olympic eligibility.
MLV got off to a great start with the following items in place - a contract with ESPN to televise 10 regular season contests on a tape delay basis, plus a playoff game and live coverage of the league's championship match. They also had a solid start in attendance with crowds between 350 and 3,000 in the opening weeks of competition in 1987.
Some problems - the league had only two sets of warmups circulating among its teams until two weeks into the first season. And the game uniforms, ordered from Japan, were in quarantine until two days before the season opened.
The content, records, and player information were obtained from a collection of VCR recordings of the original ESPN broadcasts. Commentary on players is credited to MLV sports analyst and host Chris Marlowe.
To view brief video clips (screen shots) visit Butlersride on YouTube.
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