Iowa Cornets (Basketball team)
The Iowa Cornets, first team to become a member of the Women's Basketball League (WBL), was created in 1978 under the administration of George Nissen, a Cedar Rapids businessman. The opportunity to create the women's team arose in 1977 when the WBL was created by Bill Byrne. The Cornets were officially inducted when Nissen purchased a franchise for the state of Iowa at a coat of $50,000. Nissen decided the Cornets would remain a statewide team, therefore the schedule was designed to offer "home" games in differing locations such as Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Molly Bolin, a native of Moravia, Iowa, became the first player to sign with Cornets in July 1978. Other players followed to fill the roster at fourteen. Practice began in October 1978. That same year, Nissen agreed to provide financial backing for the motion picture Dribble. The film, starring professional basketball player Pete Maravich and players from the Cornets team, is a comedy about an underdog women's basketball team that overcomes the rival men's team. The film was shot in Cedar Rapids and other Iowa locations. It attracted a great deal of attention when it opened in Iowa in January 1979 but received low box-office sales in the rest of the nation. The WBL opened in 1978 with eight teams in two divisions and included new rules for women's professional basketball, including a smaller and lighter ball, a 24-second clock, and a five-on-five rather than six-on-six game. Each team played a season consisting of two or three games per week with the championship games in April. B the start of the second season, fourteen teams had joined the WBL and a third division had been created. By early 1980, however, the WBL and even the Cornets, who had been the highest crowd-drawing team in the league, were suffering. Nissen agreed to sell eighty percent of the franchise to former disc jockey Dick Vance in January of that year but was forced to close the franchise in September when Vance was unable to provide sufficient funds.
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