Column by Ed Townsend
The Professional Bowlers Association will introduce an eight-team pro bowling league for the 2012-13 season, featuring PBA stars as franchise players, a draft of PBA members to fill out the five-player team rosters and a television series resulting in six ESPN telecasts.
The historic PBA League will make its debut during the Detroit PBA Winter Swing Jan. 19-27 at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Mich. with a live ESPN show on Sunday, Jan. 27. It will conclude with the PBA League Elias Cup Finals, honoring PBA founder Eddie Elias, at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis on Sunday, March 31 (airing Sunday, April 7 on ESPN).
Bowling has deep roots in team competition and as a part of its 2012-13 season, the PBA is going to return five-player team bowling competition to the spotlight but in a way it has never before been seen.
Details on significant aspects of the league such as team names, owners and sponsors will be released soon.
The PBA League will consist of eight five-player teams, each representing a city to be named later. Each team will be headed by a franchise player a PBA star who will draft players to fill his team. The franchise players will be the top eight players from the 2011-12 PBA Tour competition points list: Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill.; Jason Belmonte of Australia; Mike Fagan of Dallas; Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo.; Osku Palermaa of Finland; Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla.; Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa., and Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas.
A random drawing will determine the selection order for the eight franchise players. Each franchise player will draft four additional players to fill out his roster from the list of PBA members who have registered to participate in the program.
The draft itself will be held on Friday, Nov. 9 and air live on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel. It will be done in “serpentine” fashion whereby each franchise player will pick one player in pre-determined order. Whomever picks eighth will also pick ninth, and the draft order will be reversed, moving back up the list. The franchise player who picked first will then pick 16th and 17th, etc. The draft will consist of five rounds (to allow for selection of a sixth, or supplemental, player).
Over a span of four days, the PBA Detroit Winter Swing will feature a series of open-field tournaments (the Carmen Salvino Classic, Mark Roth Classic, Don Carter Classic and Earl Anthony Players Championship) which will award individual PBA Tour titles and also produce qualifying scores for the PBA League competition.
The Salvino, Roth and Carter events will feature eight-game qualifying rounds with 16 players advancing to modified nine-game round-robin match play rounds in each event. The top two qualifiers after 17 games in each event will bowl for the title.
The combined 32-game qualifying totals from the Salvino, Roth and Carter Classics plus an Anthony Championship qualifying round will determine the 16 players who will advance to the nine-game round-robin match play finals of the Players Championship. The top two qualifiers after a total of 41 games (32 qualifying, nine match play) will bowl for the Earl Anthony Players Championship title.
At the same time they are bowling in the individual qualifying rounds, members of the PBA League will be bowling for their teams. Scores for all five players after each qualifying round will be added together to determine the team seeding positions for the Baker format stepladder finals. The top three teams after each team round advance to the stepladder finals; the other five teams will bowl in a “shootout” round to determine the fourth team in each stepladder final.
The one exception to the team qualifying rule will be for PBA League Round 1, which will be televised live on ESPN on Sunday, Jan. 27, at noon ET. That show will feature the top five teams based upon their 32-game cumulative totals from the Salvino, Roth, Carter and Anthony qualifying rounds.
All PBA League finals on ESPN will be one-game Baker team stepladder matches. In Baker format competition, each member of the team bowls two frames (i.e., leadoff bowler bowls first and sixth frames, anchor bowler bowls fifth and 10th frames, etc.). Points will be awarded to each team based upon its finishing position after each of the five team rounds. After five rounds, the top four teams will advance to the PBA League Elias Cup finals which will be contested in conjunction with the live PBA Tournament of Champions finals on March 31 at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis.
The Detroit PBA Winter Swing will produce five ESPN television shows, including a live telecast of PBA League Round 1 on Sunday, Jan. 27. Subsequent shows will be taped to air on Feb. 10, Feb. 17, March 3 and March 24.
The inaugural PBA League Elias Cup stepladder finals will feature the top four teams in points, bowling in a Baker format showdown in Indianapolis. The finals will air on ESPN on April 7.
The “salary” structure will pay franchise players (technically the first-round picks) $10,000 each. Second-round picks will receive $7,000, third-round picks $5,000, fourth-round picks $3,000 and fifth-round picks $2,000 each. The sixth, or supplemental-round, picks will not be paid, but will be compensated by their teams if they are needed due to injury or other unforeseen events.
In addition to the guaranteed salary money, there will be significant rewards for the four teams that advance to the PBA League Championship round. The PBA League champion will receive $75,000 ($15,000 per player). Second place will pay $30,000 ($6,000 per player), third place $20,000 ($4,000 per player) and fourth place $10,000 ($2,000 per player). The other four teams will not cash.
Ed Townsend is a PR consultant to the sport of bowling. If you have league scores, tournament information, score a 300 game or 800 series, let Ed know at 845-439-8177, by email at edwardctownsend @hotmail.com or by fax at 845-205-4474. View this column at http://bght.blogspot.com We are also on Facebook.