The "new" PBA ended its season Sunday at Virginia Beach, Va., but its guru, Mike Miller, was not inclined to sit back and smoke a victory cigar.
"I'd give ourselves a "C' for our first season," he said. "I'm extremely happy we've been able to achieve some of our objectives, but we have a lot more work to do."
Miller, PBA president, CEO and commissioner, is one of three former computer executives who rescued the tour from bankruptcy nearly two years ago. Former commissioner Ian Hamilton stepped down last week to become executive producer of PBAESPN and spend more time with his family. Chris Peters, the wannabe pro and silent partner, was the prime mover in convincing his partners to invest millions to save the tour.
Last year, when the trio took over, Miller said, "If this doesn't work, we're roadkill."
It has worked, but Miller said more needs to be achieved.
"We have done three things that were on our agenda at the beginning," Miller noted. "First, we signed a long-term deal with ESPN; we changed our format to more match play for more compelling competition; and we tried to educate our viewers about the technical aspects of the game.
"We've nearly doubled our membership to 3,600, increased our tournament entries and received phenomenal TV ratings. The PBA World Championship (March 3) was the second highest rated show on ESPN that week and the highest rated for the PBA in 12 years."
Under Miller's leadership, the PBA increased its prize fund 140 percent, paying more than $4.3-million in 20 tournaments since September. Tournament winners now earn $40,000 with payoffs further down the field, and the three majors pay more than $100,000 to the winners. The Empire State at Albany, N.Y., the first PBA tournament in 1959, paid winner Lou Campi $2,500. The last regular tournament in 1999 under the old regime sent Indianapolis Open winner Randy Pedersen home with $15,000. PBA World Championship winner Doug Kent earned $120,000 two weeks ago, most for a PBA event.
Despite the higher payoff, Miller said the PBA will not go broke.
"Certainly not in the foreseeable future," he said. "We have four great sponsors and are working on more for next season, three outside the industry and two major industry corporations. Our revenues are beginning to match our expenses and next year we hope to break even."
More changes are on the way, Miller said. "We would like more finals in arena settings, starting with the round of 32. Within two years, we'd like to see more of our players making a million in a season instead of a career, and we'd like to get all 20 of our tournaments on Sundays only." Last season was split on weekdays and Sundays.
Miller did not ignore the PBA senior tour. "We gave up the summer Sunday dates last year and we're negotiating with ESPN to get them back. We have a tentative 11-stop tour starting in May with TV shows a possibility."
BOHN'S 29TH: Parker Bohn III won his 29th PBA title Sunday, defeating Patrick Healey Jr. of Mexico in the season-ending Battle at Little Creek at Virginia Beach. The top 32 pros competed.
Bohn stopped Healey 279-212 to earn $40,000 and claim fourth place on the all-time win list, breaking a tie with Pete Weber. Bohn rolled nine strikes and was after his second career televised 300 game before leaving the 7 pin in the 10th frame.
Brian LeClair and Robert Smith tied for third.