Volleyball has always been one sport that I thought could be a professional sport during the summer months while the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) were in hibernation. Over the years, the beach version has overshadowed the indoor game. During the 1970s there was an attempt to create a major league with the International Volleyball Association (IVA).
The IVA was a co-ed professional league which lasted from 1975 to 1980. Most of the team were located in the western United States. Teams in the league were: Santa Barbara Spikers (1975-1979), El Paso-Juarez Sol (1975-1977), Los Angeles/Orange County Stars (1975-1978), San Diego Breakers (1975-1978), Southern California Bangers (1975), Tucson Turquoise (1976), Tucson Sky (1977-1979), Phoenix Heat (1976-1977), Denver Comets (1976-1977), Seattle Smashers (1978-1979), Albuquerque Lasers (1979), Salt Lake City Stingers (1979) and San Jose Diablos (1979).
The most notable player was former NBA great Wilt Chamberlain who played with the Seattle Smashers in 1977. Chamberlain also played in the IVA’s All-Star Game which was televised on CBS. He also played in three games for the Albuquerque Lasers in 1979. Chamberlain was involved with the league from the beginning serving as the Commissioner during the late 1970s.
League champions were:
- 1975 – Los Angeles Stars
- 1976 – San Diego Breakers
- 1977 – Orange County Stars
- 1978 – Santa Barbara Spikers
- 1979 – Tucson Sky
The IVA featured two women and four men on the court at all times. The league did manage to attract the world’s top volleyball talent during its existence. Mary Jo Peppler, Lino De Gama and Ed Skorek were just a few of the international players that appeared on team rosters.
The Denver Comets were one of the league’s most stable franchises. However, in July 1979 government agents raided the offices of the team and arrested team owners along with other team employees on charges of running a multi-state cocaine and marijuana trafficking operation.
The Salt Lake City Stingers had relativity strong fan support with an average of 2,000 per game and nearly 400 season ticket holders. While most IVA teams played in small high school arenas, the Stingers played their home matches in the Salt Palace which was also home to the Utah Jazz of the NBA.
Most accounts claim that the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics was the final blow to the league. The league had hoped the exposure of featured Olympians would help them with an expected television contract with ESPN. The boycott forced many teams to fold.