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Women's Basketball Expands (Again)

If you've heard of the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL) - a semi-pro league that plays a season concurrent with the WNBAs - they (theoretically) have some competition.

An organization called the Women's United States Basketball League (WUSBL) which will be headquartered in Atlanta, GA and which will have twelve franchises in the southeast United States, a geographical region that has historically been a poor climate for women's basketball. According to the press release, the goal is that the league would play a 28-game schedule. The teams will hopefully be placed in Atlanta, Augusta, Birmingham, Louisville, West Virginia, Chattanooga, Charleston, Charlotte, Columbia, Richmond, Savannah, and Jacksonville.

So is this league going to happen? I don't know. No one knows.

According to the same press release, the initial goal was to start a men's basketball league - the USBL - but "...some American men's lower level basketball leagues have given a black eye to the sport by the failure to operate good companies, the flax we received from vendors and arenas, we wanted to rent was ridiculous." Furthermore, it doesn't cost any money to send a press release - but starting a league is another matter entirely. Supposedly, on May 8th and May 15th there will be WUSBA women's tryouts held in Louisville, KY - interested readers can chase down their own information.

I do believe that that if the WUSBL is ever realized, such a structure would be better than the one the WBCBL is currently is using - one with approximately fifty teams and seemingly little information about any of them. There are very basic things that a league has to do in order to be stable. There has to be financially secure leadership. There must be corporate support. Travel schedules have to be finalized. Players have to be paid, and they have to be able to depend that they will get paid, even if it's just $300 per week. And finally, there must be a threshhold where some teams will be accepted and others will be turned away.

Is the WUSBL good news? Yes. The WUSBL is good news even if it never plays a game, because it promotes the idea that there is money to be made - at some level - in women's professional basketball. In many cases in sports history, expansion is not voluntary - it is forced. The traditional pattern goes as follows:

1. New league springs up because the old league doesn't meet the demand for the sport.
2. New league becomes popular and begins attempting to compete with the old league by offering players higher salaries.
3. Salaries go up in both leagues. Players benefit.
4. Both sides conclude they're paying too much in salaries - the owners in the leagues conclude they have more in common with each other than not.
5. The leagues merge.

Of course, WUSBL salaries would have to get a lot higher than $300 per week and a meal voucher at Golden Corral. But then again, stranger things have happened. Major leagues get started by a bunch of crazy people with money - sometimes, more money than sense - and before you know, it snowballs into something big. The goal of the WUSBL is to be the "triple-A" of the WNBA - a big ambition - but great oaks grow from small acorns.