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American Basketball League Folds

December 22, 1998 GMT

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) _ The American Basketball League suspended operations today, unable to stem its financial losses in the third season of the women’s league.

The league, which announced the move in a telephone recording, by fax and on its Web site, said it would file for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

The decision leaves the WNBA as the lone U.S. professional women’s basketball league.

The nine-team ABL was about a third of the way through this season when its board of directors decided to halt operations Monday night.

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``This is a sad day for our fans, employees, players, and coaches and for women’s basketball in general,″ ABL co-founder and chief executive officer Gary Cavalli said in a statement.

``We gave it our best shot. We fought the good fight and we had a good run. But we were unable to obtain the television exposure and sponsorship support needed to make the league viable long term.″

The league had franchises in Chicago; Colorado; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville, Tenn; Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; San Jose; and Seattle.

Two franchises, in Long Beach, Calif., and Atlanta, had folded earlier because of poor attendance. A franchise in Richmond, Va., had moved to Philadelphia.

``I want to thank the people who believed in the ABL _ our fans, players, coaches, sponsors and investors,″ Cavalli said.

On a hotline set up for employees, a recording said the league was currently working on a plan to pay outstanding salaries.

``Thank you for your dedication, perseverance and commitment to the ABL,″ the recording said.

The move caught many franchises by surprise. Some still had recordings on voice mail that spoke of upcoming games.

The WNBA signed most of this year’s top college seniors and was able to lure Dawn Staley, one of the ABL’s main attractions. Standout guard Jen Rizzotti agreed to stay with the New England Blizzard of the ABL after speaking to the WNBA.

The Columbus Quest won titles in the league’s only two complete seasons.

The ABL began in 1996 with eight teams and a 40-game schedule. It expanded to nine teams in its second season, with attendance increasing 23 percent. The television package included 36 games on Fox Sports Net and BET.

The TV package this season was to include two championship series games on CBS and 16 on Fox Sports Net.