XFL Partners with The Spring League to Reimagine Football

XFL Press Release

Stamford, Conn., January 30, 2019 – The XFL today announced that it has formed a partnership with The Spring League, an elite professional football development organization, to test changes to rules and gameplay as it works to reimagine the game when it kicks off in 2020. Testing during The Spring League’s upcoming season follows the XFL’s first testing session conducted last month, which featured two Mississippi-based junior college teams.

The Spring League will take the field in Austin, Texas from March 28 to April 11 and will provide players the opportunity to showcase their ability in front of the XFL, NFL and other professional football talent evaluators. While doing so, coaches will work closely with football operations executive from the XFL to blend in on-field adjustments the league has been researching and developing since announcing its return just over a year ago.

“We believe that conducting live R&D sessions to test out potential game adjustments in real time is critical,” Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner & CEO. “Putting the best product on the field is out number one priority and thanks to partners like The Spring League, we are confident that the changes we eventually decide to deploy will have the desired effect and we will deliver outstanding football when we kick off.”

“This is an exciting partnership for The Spring League,” said Brian Woods, CEO of The Spring League, “We applaud the XFL’s effort to reimagine the game and simultaneously provide out players and additional opportunity to display their talents for the XFL coaches and scouts in attendance.”

In early December, XFL football operations personnel worked with the National Junior College Athletic Association and two member schools, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College, to conduct its first live R&D session.

“The feedback we received from the players, coached and game officials who participated in our three R&D sessions in December was hugely beneficial,” said Doug Whaley, XFL Senior Vice President of Football Operations. “We’re excited to take that feedback, as well as observations from the hundreds of hours of tape we captured, and put these new adjustments on the field in real time with the incredibly talented players of The Spring League attracts.

Fan Choice: Vote on XFL Team Names

In 2000, when XFLBoard.com asked fans to weigh in on their choices for XFL 1.0 team names, the results were so interesting we decided to do it again.

As we await the official release of the team names by the XFL, we asked the fans to weigh in. Since January 13th, we have had hundreds of team name suggestions.

Now it’s time to vote! 

We now give you a chance to vote on the submissions we have received so far. If you don’t like the choices, you may still write-in your choice.

Instructions

  1. For each team, place a check next to all the choices you like.
  2. If you don’t like the choices offered, write in your vote at the end of each section.
  3. Click “Submit My Choices!” at the bottom of the form.

We will publish the winners and losers prior to the XFL releasing the official team names. Have fun!

Voting is now closed. Stay tuned as we tabulate the results.

The Alliance between Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol – Credit: ESPN Films.”Do you ever have any thoughts of trying again?” Dick Ebersol asked Vince McMahon on the This was the XFL special done for the ESPN 30 for 30 series. Vince McMahon without hesitation responded, “Yes I do.” Ebersol responded with, “We’ll have to do it with our own money because I don’t work at NBC anymore.”

To borrow a line from the critically acclaimed 30 for 30 series. “What if I told you… that in May of 2001 when the XFL folded, that both McMahon and the Ebersols would be back in the football league business 18 years later, but this time as competitors.”

TV and Sports Broadcasting Legend Dick Ebersol, once called Vince McMahon. “The greatest partner he has ever had.” The relationship went beyond just business and mutual respect. Dick Ebersol told his wife that if anything were to happen to him. He wanted Vince McMahon to be the legal guardian and watch over his three children, Teddy, Willie and Charlie. There’s no greater testament of love for someone than entrusting them with that honor.

On February 3rd of 2000, Vince McMahon announced the launch of the XFL. A bold move in a series of risk-taking moves throughout his legendary career. McMahon embarked upon creating a football league from scratch with no outside financial backing. He gave himself only a year to do it. Over a month later, Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon called a joint press conference on March 31st 2000, to announce a 50-50 partnership with NBC as it’s broadcast machine. NBC was contracted to pay the XFL 50-million dollars per season.

From an innovation and broadcasting standpoint, this was a lethal combination. The XFL and NBC, through the vision of Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol, changed the way football was broadcasted forever. From the overhead “X Cam”, to the on field “Bubba Cam”, to the on-field audio access of players and coaches. Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon revolutionized the game. Unfortunately, while the presentation was way ahead of its time. The actual football was way behind. Everyone knows how the story ended for the original XFL.

While the original XFL started off great, selling millions of tickets, and drawing astronomical ratings that actually beat the World Series that year, the league fumbled the ball on the football side of things. By the end of season one, the league had become an afterthought and laughing stock in the sports and television industry. Vince McMahon still wanted to forge on to year two. NBC didn’t. The hardest decision, Dick Ebersol ever had to make was to sever ties with what was a failing operation. He needed to convince McMahon not to fight it.

Vince McMahon was left holding the bag. He could have very easily held NBC’s feet to the fire. NBC was morally and legally obligated to honor their contract with the XFL. They owed the league 50 million dollars for year two. If Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol were just merely business partners, things could have gotten real ugly. McMahon could have and would have won any legal battles for what NBC owed him and his league.

To be fair, Ebersol and NBC weren’t alone in trying to end the XFL. The league’s top advertisers had bailed, and their other broadcasting partners like UPN/TNN, were hedging their bets and trying to leverage the XFL’s failings towards creating a stronger foothold on McMahon’s WWE. A singular grand vision that Vince McMahon planned to start and operate on his own, had been taken down by his broadcast marriages. McMahon reluctantly and begrudgingly waved the white flag.

Nearly 17 years after all of this, Vince McMahon decided that he was going to try it again, but this time. He would do it alone. No more 50-50 partners. He would be investing his own money, like Ebersol suggested, to the tune of half a billion dollars. It could be argued that this was an even bolder decision than the original XFL. McMahon was rebooting something that failed on a grand scale. The norm in entertainment is to reboot successful entities. Couple that with the fact that since May of 2001, other leagues had also come and gone, facing the same demise. Even the almighty NFL’s Europe league had died despite great financial backing. Other pro league hopefuls either failed to launch, or couldn’t survive like the United Football League.

McMahon was bringing back the XFL to a market place that had been deemed a dead zone. Why would anyone make another attempt at starting a pro football league? No one could have predicted that two months after McMahon’s January 25th relaunch announcement, that yet another spring pro football league would launch. The kicker? It was being founded by Dick Ebersol’s son Charlie. The league would be potentially going head to head with the XFL, with Dick’s son Charlie deciding to jump ahead and launch earlier than McMahon.

The XFL’s rise and fall had been documented by Charlie Ebersol, he often times would argue in defense of the league and would discuss how things could have worked, if handled differently. His admiration and the relationship between his father and Vince McMahon was a strong aspect of the 30 for 30 special. Many would argue and speculate that the XFL was reborn as a result of this special, but the special would also give birth to Charlie’s “Alliance of American Football.” A strange dynamic where Dick Ebersol would be a low-key advisor behind the scenes for his son’s league, that is now a direct competitor with Vince McMahon.

In two weeks, Charlie Ebersol is launching an 8-team spring pro-football league, with the help of NFL Hall of Fame Executive Bill Polian. The league like the original XFL, has been rushing into the market place. Giving themselves less than a year to launch. Despite taking a non-adversarial approach to the NFL, and suggesting that they could become a minor league for them. The AAF has taken a similar path to the original XFL. The league is finishing up a month-long joint training camp in San Antonio. One of the biggest failings of the original XFL, was how the quality of play suffered from teams having only 30 days to gel.

The AAF had a league wide QB draft in late November with designated quarterbacks switching teams just 2 months before game time. On their journey to opening, the league has lost a head coach in Brad Childress, three offensive coordinators in Jon Kitna, Hal Mumme and Hugh Freeze, and Birmingham assistant RB coach Cadillac Williams. Not a great start on the journey to providing quality football right out the gate. Like the original XFL, making a first impression will be key. Is Charlie’s league following the same exact flawed path that his father and Vince did?

The Alliance has some good business relationships. By comparison to the original XFL-NBC deal, the AAF has a scaled down network deal with CBS that sees just two of their games broadcast on network television. With all the other games on cable TV. Still a good deal for an upstart league. 2019 can provide so many more opportunities than 2001 did for an upstart league. From technology to gambling to fantasy football. As of this article, the AAF hasn’t launched any apps tied in to any of these aspects. The league website has not updated team or player bios but there is still time. There figures to be more promotion with the upcoming Superbowl on CBS, AAF’s current broadcast partner, with NFL Network rumored to be next on deck.

Both the AAF and XFL have stated that they are not direct competitors with the NFL, and that they’re just trying to present quality football for fans, when the college and NFL seasons have ended. Vince McMahon, learning through his mistakes of rushing into the league the first time, had decided to take a “slow and steady wins the race” approach, not launching until February of 2020. That strategy left the door open for someone to cut in front of him on the line. Little did he know that it would be his most trusted business partner’s son. Since Vince’s XFL relaunch announcement, leagues are coming out of the wood work and thin air to announce potential launches. The crazy idea of launching another pro football league is not so crazy anymore. Even Ricky Williams has emerged from a cloud of smoke to announce his own league.

The relationship between Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon has led many to speculate, as to whether there could be yet another alliance between the Ebersols and McMahons. Despite Bill Polian’s desired goal of being a developmental league for the NFL, could the XFL and AAF eventually become partners in a joint league? Similar to the days of the 1960’s AFL/NFL merger. Supporting this theory is the fact that both leagues are in 16 different markets, with the AAF concentrated towards one side of the map, while the XFL is positioned strongly in big markets and on the east coast. The leagues aren’t competing with each other in the same markets. However, when it comes to players and coaches, the two leagues will end up competing directly with one another during the course of this year. The structure of the AAF’s 3-year contract is designed to directly prevent any of their players from playing in the XFL. Vince McMahon’s league will not have similar 3-year deals but they are offering their players more money to play in their league.

The pipe dream of a merger or joint partnership between the XFL and AAF remains a long shot, but it will exist until one or both leagues fold. The two leagues have to get to years two and three before any of these dreams can become a reality. In the meantime, the XFL is set to announce their own broadcast rights package in the coming week. They will be sitting on the sidelines, watching the AAF launch a week after the Superbowl. Will the AAF’s success or failure benefit the XFL?. There are arguments for either side. Regardless of what happens, the XFL is moving towards their 2020 launch. Where presumably, both leagues will be competing directly for attention in February of next year. Until then, Charlie Ebersol and the AAF has the game all to themselves.

As the original old saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Both the XFL and AAF are trying to learn from the mistakes of the original XFL’s past. The Ebersols and McMahon have a shared past, and now a shared future, but they are on opposite sides of the war…. for now.

Jeffrey Pollack Named XFL President COO

Sports industry veteran Jeffrey Pollack has been named President & Chief Operating Officer of the XFL

Stamford, Conn., January 22, 2019 – The XFL today announced that sports industry veteran Jeffrey Pollack has been named President & Chief Operating Officer and will oversee the league’s strategic planning and business operations, as well as the management of its eight teams.

“Just as Oliver Luck is perfectly suited to be Commissioner & CEO, so too is Jeffrey Pollack suited perfectly to be XFL President & COO with his extraordinary experience and diverse background across a variety of global sports properties,” said Vince McMahon, XFL Founder & Chairman. “I have no doubt that Oliver and Jeffrey will successfully reimagine the game of football and guide the XFL to long-term success.”

“It’s not often that a new professional sports league is positioned for success like the XFL,” said Pollack. “There’s a clear vision for what we will offer our fans, players and partners, and I look forward to working closely with Vince and Oliver to bring that vision to life.”

Pollack comes to the XFL from the Los Angeles Chargers, where he was Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer and Special Advisor.

With a 25-year track record, Pollack began his career in sports in 1994 when, as the founding President and Publisher, he created and launched The Sports Business Daily. He then joined the National Basketball Association in 1998 as a Strategic Communications Consultant and also served as the league’s Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications. In 2001, he was named Managing Director of Broadcasting and New Media for NASCAR Digital Entertainment.

From 2005 to 2009, Pollack served as Commissioner of the World Series of Poker and Vice President of Sports and Entertainment Marketing for Caesars Entertainment. He has also served as Executive Chairman of the Professional Bull Riders and Executive Chairman of Federated Sports and Gaming.

Pollack has a Bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, a Master’s degree from The Graduate School of Political Management, and a Master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

About The XFL

The XFL will reimagine football for the 21st century when it kicks off the weekend of February 8-9, 2020. The new league is committed to delivering a fan-centric, innovative experience, including fast-paced games and a family-friendly environment, complemented by cross-platform viewing options and real-time fan engagement.

Football is America’s favorite sport boasting over 85 million fans, but the traditional season is just too short. Seeing a tremendous opportunity to fill the void, Vince McMahon, XFL Founder and Chairman announced on January 25, 2018, the launch of a new league, which he is personally funding. McMahon is building the XFL with the same commitment and resolve that he has demonstrated building WWE into a global media and sports entertainment powerhouse.

Delivering authentic, high energy football for the whole family at an affordable price, the XFL will offer fast-paced games with fewer play stoppages and simpler rules. The league will launch with eight teams, 45-man active rosters, and a 10-week regular season schedule, with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game. The XFL will also establish a health, wellness and safety program that meets the needs of today’s athletes.

The XFL will embrace the latest on and off-field technology, providing live game coverage, content and real-time engagement across multiple platforms, giving fans greater access than ever before. The XFL is committed to building grassroots relationships with local organizations in its host cities through social responsibility partnerships, and the XFL will enjoy the support of WWE’s many extraordinary resources and promotional capabilities.

The XFL will launch next year in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C.

For more information, visit XFL.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

One Last Look Back at the Original XFL

As XFL Representatives scout the future of pro football and their league, at this past weekend’s College All-Star games. I found myself thinking about the past and how surreal this whole XFL return thing really is. I keep having 2001 flashbacks.

Let’s jump back into Doc’s DeLorean one last time. The world was so different in 2001. Specifically, the online universe. Back then, if you were a fan, you only had chat rooms and message boards. There was no real coverage by sports media outlets. So, all the fans had was the league website, some newspaper articles, and some fan sites.

Sites like XFLBoard.com provided fans the opportunity to follow, interact and write about the league. No podcasts or internet shows. There weren’t even any weekly radio talk shows back then. The WWF at the time, was heading into the sports world and there was no real coverage of the league by the mainstream sports media. A sports franchise headed by a wrestling company didn’t really help create the impression of legitimacy. Alternative football leagues have a hard time, as it is, getting coverage by the mainstream media to begin with. Let alone a wrestling company. Any coverage of the original XFL was done so in a mocking fashion. After the first couple of weeks of the season, it was almost impossible finding any weekly highlights on ESPN or any serious recaps or analysis of the teams, players, or games on any sports media outlet.

An example of this was week one in the original XFL. As a sports fan for over three decades, I would be hard pressed to recall a more electrifying atmosphere for a season opener than the one that took place between LA and San Fran. When the San Francisco Demons defeated The LA Xtreme in their home opener at Pac Bell Park. San Fran won the game 15-13 with the clock running out. The over 38,000 fans that packed the stadium, were as loud as any group of fans, for any game I’ve ever witnessed. For a first-time league with mostly unknown players, to get that type of immersive response out the gate was unreal. The game wasn’t pretty but it was intense. A great back and forth game with tremendous drama. The presentation clicked on all levels. Some of it was over the top, but you actually felt like you were on the field and in the stands. If the XFL had opened their league on NBC with this game, the first impression of the league may have been different than the one created by the sloppy and one-sided Outlaws-Hitmen opener on NBC.

The league and The Demons-Xtreme game actually made the front cover of Sports Illustrated at the time. A great honor except that the XFL was blistered on the cover and inside the magazine. The headline read “Cheap Thrills”…. With the underneath caption reading “Will sleazy gimmicks and low-rent football work for the XFL?”…… It didn’t get much better inside the magazine. The drama, innovation and fun attached to the Demons-Xtreme game was mostly overlooked.

To be fair, some of the negative sentiment towards the XFL was warranted. The league puffed out it’s chest about being the big bad wolf and then got treated as such by the mainstream sports media. Nearly two decades ago, I actually got a chance to sort of become a part of that media, thanks to this very website, when I covered the New York/New Jersey Hitmen. Who knew back in 2001, that writing for a website that covered the league could get you access to games and a press pass to interview players and coaches?

Here I was barely in my 20’s, stepping inside a press box for the very first time, at what was then known as Giants Stadium. It was Week 7 of the XFL Season. Despite being 2 and 4, The Hitmen were still in contention for a playoff spot with 4 weeks to go in the regular season. The 3 and 3 Memphis Maniax were also involved in a playoff chase of their own in the western division. I was so excited and fully invested in the season. Despite the fact that the interest in the league was dying down even amongst its biggest supporters. I had been to every Hitmen home game and sat in the stands with the rest of my fellow tri-state football fans. The league may have been on its last legs heading towards it’s impending death but I was so caught up in the moment, that i wasn’t looking at the league as a gloom and doom operation.

With an XFL press credential in hand, I rode up the elevator into the press level at Giants Stadium. I had never experienced a game from this prospective. After proudly showing my press pass to a member of security, I headed into the press box. There was a decent number of local sporting press there. As is the custom, there is no cheering allowed in the press box. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have, but didn’t expect the lack of interest or enthusiasm from the press on hand. The scribes that were on hand, took more interest in the catered buffet than they did the actual game. It was a really nice layout but i was more interested in taking in the experience and following the game than getting second helpings of baked ziti.

The one league related conversation that I had with a reporter was how he had information on how the Chicago Enforcers were going to relocate to Milwaukee because of Soldier Field renovation later in the year. It turned out to be true. League reps were looking into different locations, had there been a second season. This reporter didn’t see year two even happening and had no real interest in this game or the XFL itself. I found out on this evening, first hand how unimportant and insignificant the XFL was to the local media.

The interest for me at that moment, while watching the field through a massive glass encasement in the press box was the actual game. The Hitmen had yet to win a home game. Despite that, NY/NJ could remarkably put their playoff hopes into their own hands by winning. The paid attendance for the game was 22,000 but the live attendance was only 15,781. The weather was bad but the crowd on hand was great. They were rewarded with a great last second victory, that saw the Hitmen score a touchdown late to win the game 16-15. The Memphis Maniax, despite having an up and down season, that eventually saw them finish at 5 and 5, came into this game with the league’s #1 ranked offense. They were kind of a Jekyll and Hyde type team. They would get off to great starts and then falter late in games. This would be the ammo, I needed when entering the team’s locker rooms after the game. I was so wrapped up in the league that when Birmingham lost to The Outlaws in the other Saturday night XFL game. I knew how that loss opened the door for the Hitmen to control their playoff destiny if they won out. A heartbreaking home loss to Chicago would eventually derail the teams hopes of making the playoffs by seasons end.

When the game ended, I headed to the team’s locker rooms. It was just me and a couple of other writers. They were looking to get it over with fast and for some quick sound bytes. I was looking for real reactions. The Hitmen were in good spirits after the game. When I informed New York Defensive Lineman Israel Raybon that the Bolts had lost. He enthusiastically responded, “We have it all in our hands now.”

When I headed into the visitor’s locker room. I knew that the other writers weren’t going to ask anything substantial. Here I was a 20 something year old kid, who was lucky to even have this type of access, getting ready to grill a seasoned and well-respected pro football veteran in Maniax Head Coach Kippy Brown. I was going to ask him why his teams had a tendency of collapsing late in games. In this particular game, Memphis led 15-3 before blowing the lead and losing. I had read in the buildup of the game, how Memphis players were talking about how hard Kippy was working them in practice. So, I attributed their late game collapses to it. It was probably not the greatest angle to take but at the time, it seemed plausible. Looking back, I was probably reaching a bit.

This is what I wrote on this very website back in 2001, of my exchange with Kippy Brown after the game. When asked if conditioning was a factor in his teams second half breakdowns, Brown took a defensive approach and stated, “These players aren’t working hard enough, ask them if they lost because they worked too much.” Boy, was Kippy Brown mad when I suggested his practices in pads may have been a reason for his team’s second half collapses.

Regardless, whether my analysis or questioning was off base or not, I was told by the players and coaches on that night, that they appreciated that a member of the “media” was taking their league and games seriously. Most of the players and football personnel that were involved in the original league were treated, as if what they were doing didn’t matter or wasn’t important. The old XFL is gone forever. While most see Version 1.0 as a failure, there are so many fans who see it differently, myself included.

With news coming out this week, that the XFL plans to unveil their television rights/digital streaming package in the next few weeks. Probably during Superbowl week. The league will be officially starting a new chapter. There are so many more ways for a product to get exposure in 2019, then there was back in 2001. It’s a vastly different media world. The league figures to be much different this go around. The coverage and treatment of it might still end up being the same, but it will be more accessible for fans to follow the league this time. No press pass needed.

Submit Your Choices for XFL Team Names

In 2000, XFLBoard.com asked the fans to weigh in on their choices for XFL 1.0 team names.  The results were interesting: https://xflboard.com/team-name-suggestion.php

We are doing it again! XFL fans are encouraged to submit their choices for the new XFL team names. Please submit your choices in the form below. Name and email addresses are optional.

We will publish a summary of the “FAN CHOICES” in the near future.

 

Team name submission is closed. Click here to vote on your favorite submissions.

Is the XFL really going to happen?

This is a question that I am sure that many followers of the XFL, have been asking themselves since Vince McMahon announced the XFL’s return on January 25th of last year. Personally, I still can’t believe that the XFL is returning. It still doesn’t seem real. The history of proposed launches and relaunches of leagues is not a good one.

The first quarter of this year is a crucial period that could help determine whether the XFL starts off on the right note. A lot of what transpires in these first three months will help determine whether or not, The XFL is going to have lasting power. There is even doubt by some that the league will be able to launch come February of 2020. Recent history shows that simply getting to the field and playing games is not a given.

As chronicled here at XFLBoard in recent articles. There are several hurdles for the XFL in building and launching their league. From the financial aspects to getting players, coaches and business partners to commit. Just starting up a pro football league is very challenging. Let alone having it be a success. Since version 1.0 of the XFL faded in 2001. There have been so many proposed leagues that failed to even take the field. Too many to mention but let’s look at a few.

On several occasions, the ‘new USFL’ was supposed to launch. Businessman and former NFL players were a part of the potential relaunch. They had a new league logo, proposed team locations and nothing ever came of it. The Spring League of American Football has pushed back their launch for several years now. Headed by TV executives, the SAFL has launched a website but nothing else. The North American Football League had team names and cities announced. Their owners didn’t even show up for open tryouts and they were arrested for allegedly defrauding potential investors. They were supposed to launch in 2016. Back in 2007, there was the All American Football League. Very few even remember it. This was a 6 team league with no team nicknames. Just teams labeled as “Team Texas” and “Team Florida.” The plan was to be a college like league with territorial designations. The league was started by former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey. The AAFL even got to the point of having their inaugural draft. Several former NFL players signed on like Peter Warrick. “He Hate Me” Rod Smart was slated to play for Team Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. Coaching staffs were established, as were all the teams playing locations. The AAFL never got their TV deal, the league was postponed for thre straight years before eventually fading into darkness and ceasing operations.

So much time is spent about these leagues getting to the finish line, when just getting to the field has been an issue. Even leagues like The UFL, that did get to the starting line, had to reshuffle and change their plans just to get there. 2009 was supposed to be that league’s big launch. An 8 team 20 million dollar cap with a lengthy schedule turned into a soft launch 4 team league with a shortened schedule. Credit to them for still pushing forward and trying to build as time went on, but that building started crumbling before the foundation was even laid.

Even as someone who has supported and covered the XFL in 2001 and now in 2019. I am cautiously optimistic but borderline skeptical. The XFL has great financial backing and a world class commissioner at the helm in Oliver Luck. Someone who has great experience in launching teams and running leagues. The XFL has hired a scouting department and they have staffed some key roles for the league. Cities have been announced in world class markets with top notch stadiums.

The league appears to be on the right path, but with a year until games presumably kick off on Saturday February 8th 2020. The heavy lifting starts now, in what has been labeled as the XFL’s 2019 Preseason. There is time but the clock is ticking. Certain things need to happen before this league can become a reality.

The first major sign of the XFL becoming a reality is their yet to be announced TV rights deal. When the league was officially announced as returning by Vince McMahon last January. The thought was that the XFL would struggle to find the type of TV partner, that they had back in 2001 when NBC became their 50-50 partner. The thought going around was that the relaunched XFL would follow the streaming model with a potential cable partner. The feeling amongst many was that the XFL wouldn’t be able to do better than that.

In recent interviews, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck has left the impression that the league is in negotiations with legacy carriers that broadcast NFL games. A rights package deal is supposed to be announced in the first quarter of 2019. Which means that there should be something announced in the next month, but until there is, the skepticism remains alive. A TV deal will not only net the league the necessary exposure it needs to survive, but it will be a selling point for fans, potential viewers, players, coaches, advertisers and potential business partners. If the league does not get a quality distribution deal, then it will struggle to get people to buy into their league.

There was some talk by Oliver Luck of a potential TV deal being announced before the end of 2018. Like the XFL City situation, the locations were slated to be announced in the fall and technically it was, they were announced in the fall on December 5th but a lot later than people anticipated. It took 11 months for the league to get to that point from the relaunch announcement to city reveals. It simply can’t take that long for the next wave of league goals, if it does, there will be delays that could halt the launch in 2020, or at the bare minimum affect the quality of the league’s play when they do eventually launch.

Can the XFL proceed to the other important hires before netting a TV rights deal? The league’s cities have been announced but there is still the matter of creating the infrastructure for each team. The league has yet to hire team presidents and employees for each XFL City. This will be crucial in establishing themselves in all eight XFL markets. Right now, fans can make season ticket deposits at XFL.com, but the league is a long way from setting schedules, marketing and advertising locally without actual team operations staffs.

The city offices are a boring subject but it’s vital for getting off the ground running. The XFL is not there yet. Then there is the matter of team branding. A crucial element towards building up anticipation and interest for the league. The new XFL has to get this right but it’s more of a superficial thing right now. It’s just as important as these other matters in the first quarter of 2019 but it won’t mean anything if the other goals are not met.

The sexy part of team building is hiring head coaches, putting together coaching staffs and then signing quarterbacks to league contracts. This is what has been earmarked as the first goals for the XFL in the 1st quarter of this year. That means that by the end of March, all of this should be completed.

As we approach mid-January, the coaching carousels are almost done spinning in the NFL and in college football. Staffs are being finalized. There will be a number of coaches out there looking for work. Getting these coaches to commit to your league will not be an easy sell. Depending on the quality of the coaches, retaining them will also be a challenge. As evidenced by the recent happenings in The Alliance of American Football. With just a few weeks before their season is set to begin. Atlanta Legends coach Brad Childress has stepped down, Arizona Hotshots Offensive Coordinator Hugh Freeze left for a head coaching job at Liberty and Memphis Express OC Hal Mumme bailed on his job. It’s not enough to get these coaches to sign on, you need them to make a serious commitment. In turn, coaches will only commit to the XFL if they see it as being serious.

Quarterback commitments will be tough as well. The biggest selling point of the league in terms of their quality of play mission statement, is their announced 300 thousand dollars a season salary for their premiere Quarterbacks. A far cry from their 45k a season salaries back in 2001. It sounds great in theory but which quarterbacks are going to commit to signing on with the XFL in 2019, and then hold off on going to any other league until after the 2020 XFL season ends. Like the issue with head coaches, a strong commitment will be needed. You are asking a potential star QB to sit out the 2019 NFL, CFL or AAF seasons and to stay under contract and wait till the XFL season starts in February and then ends in May, before potentially exploring other opportunities.

As of mid-January, there are so many questions that are left unanswered right now with the XFL. Hopefully as fans and supporters, the blanks will start getting filled in in the coming weeks.

Gambling in and on the XFL

There will come a day when sports gambling is as regular as buying a lottery ticket. The legalization of sports gambling will have huge ramifications on the economy and the business models of all sports leagues. That day hasn’t arrived yet but we are getting closer to it.

Several sports leagues are positioning themselves upfront and behind the scenes, waiting to reap all the benefits headed their way. All sports have benefited from gambling for ages, but no sport has drawn more gamblers to their games than the sport of football. For so long, gambling has been such a taboo subject. It’s been treated as a criminal activity that potentially compromises the integrity of your league. Yet it can be argued that the monster that is the NFL, was created by illegal gambling on games. Millions of people watch NFL games with something personally at stake. One can only imagine how much more money and interest can be created for games when sports gambling is fully legalized and accessible for all. It may draw in even more viewers if casual fans can simply place a bet from home on any game or team they want to.

The XFL and other fledgling leagues have openly talked about gambling and have stressed that it will be a huge part of the draw to their leagues. With phone apps that are designed and focused on gambling and fantasy football. The idea is that it will enable fans to gamble on every single play with a simple click on their phones. In 2019, the landscape for sports wagering is not quite clear. There are several states where you can’t gamble and some where you can only gamble on your phone if you are in a legalized state or at specific resorts. There are ways of working around this for all gamblers, but in order for a league to benefit at full potential, the legalization of it will be key.

Starting up in 2020, like the XFL is, may benefit them. Oliver Luck even mentioned gambling and the timeline of 2020 as being beneficial in the league’s city announcement press conference back on December 5th.

As of January 2019, Full scale legalized sports betting is only available currently in 8 states. New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Mississippi, and West Virginia. New Jersey can be thanked for getting the ball rolling on this one. Their supreme court victory opened the door for states to legalize gambling if they wish to do so. The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Several members from both parties of the United States Congress are pushing for legalized gambling.

Both proposed spring pro football leagues have currently only 1 team that has legalized gambling in it’s state. The New York XFL franchise which plays in New Jersey. New York is on deck with 4 legalized gambling site locations and a bill that is supposed to be re-introduced in 2019 to fully legalize gambling statewide. Las Vegas is the home of the AAF’s first two championship games and gambling has been legal in that state for more than half a century. What about all the other markets in these leagues?

There are several states on the waiting deck, looking to get sports betting legalized.

On December 18th, the nation’s capital Washington, D.C. legalized sports betting. The DC council voted 10-2 in favor of it. Emergency legislation was passed making the Sports Wagering Lottery Amendment Act effective immediately. The states lottery is working on regulations and infrastructure. There is a catch to this. The new law allows for a single app model that will give DC a monopoly on sports betting in the District of Columbia. Sports betting organizations are happy that sports betting has been legalized but they feel that the single-app model is a major cause for concern. Either way, this bodes well for the XFL’s D.C. franchise. How gambling profits are divided are an issue but gambling in DC creates more interest and fan involvement. The state of Arkansas also had a sports wagering bill passed, similar to DC.

California has a voter referendum set up for 2020 as a built-in initiative. The state does have 60 tribal casinos where it is legal to gamble on games. This could play a factor in the XFL’s Los Angeles franchise. As well as the AAF’s San Diego franchise but the 2020 timeline makes year one for San Diego an impossibility.

The state of Missouri is currently in a holding pattern. The Show Me state has six bills regarding sports wagering currently in the works. Bills have been introduced to expand beyond their licensed riverboat casinos and daily fantasy companies. Legislative hearings have taken place but the bill hasn’t advanced past the committee stage at this point.

The other states where bills have or are expected to be introduced are Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. By 2020, many of these states may legalize sports wagering.

There are 19 states that have laws that prohibit full blown sports betting. No bills have been publicly announced or introduced or devoted to sports betting legalization. The states are some key football states with teams in the XFL and the AAF. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington State, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Utah’s anti gambling stance is written into the state’s constitution. It remains to be seen if any changes are made to an existing state policy in the future. It certainly doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to happening.

Football hot beds like Florida, Alabama and Texas seem to be in a holding pattern. Florida has plenty of Indian casinos, but the general assembly has made no move to legalize sports betting. Alabama has had no discussions among their lawmakers about sports betting. Texas is surprisingly in the same boat. They would be one of the biggest gaming states in the nation but no law makers have been championing it.

By 2020, it’s safe to assume that many new states will have legalized sports gambling. It could be more than half the countries states. How successful the current legalized states are, will help determine that. There are a few law makers who feel that states will lose money like Nebraska’s Governor Pete Ricketts. If the current legalized states dispel that notion and create financial windfalls for their states. That could change a state’s stance on sports wagering. Other naysayers in government are against it from a morality standpoint, while others feel that gambling will be too difficult to regulate properly. There are certainly hurdles to overcome in 2019 but by 2020, the picture should become clearer.

There is no doubt that XFL founder Vince McMahon is putting all of his chips in the middle of the table with his financial commitment of over 500 million dollars. The league is banking on a TV rights/streaming deal that will net them exposure and create multiple revenue streams. However, their best bet may be on the sports gambling landscape by 2020.

The challenges in improving the quality of play in the XFL

According to The NCAA. 16,236 college football players were eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft. Only 253 of those players were drafted. Nearly a hundred undrafted college football players made an NFL roster, most of them by way of the league’s 32 practice squads. That means that over 15,000 college football players didn’t get the opportunity to become pros. Of the over 16,000 players, only 1.6 percent made an NFL roster. When the NCAA study counted the CFL and even Arena league, that number jumped up to only 1.9 percent.

College football has improved immensely in the last two decades. There was a time when playing a college styled offense was foreign and not suitable for the pros. In 2019, NFL teams have adopted so many offensive concepts from college football. The college game is more adaptable to the pros, than it ever was but the number of player job openings remains the same.

Counting all the divisions, there are over 800 college football programs and counting. Division 1 alone has 130 college football teams. 85 player rosters per team, of which about 55 suit-up every week. That’s a massive amount of football players. 11,050 in total.

There’s another side to this equation. With over 300 college players making the NFL every year. That 1.6 percent ends up taking over 300 NFL jobs. Which in turn, leads to current NFL players losing their roster spots. Over 300 of them to be exact every single year. The guys who usually lose their roster spots to rookies are for the most part, young NFL players who don’t see their second contract. That’s one of the reasons that an average NFL players career is listed as only 3 or 4 years. People will point to injuries and they play a part for sure but the simple math tells you this…. 300 rookies making NFL rosters every year leads to 300 vets losing their spots to those rookies.

With all these numbers, it would seem to favor the idea of a second pro football league being able to field quality teams with quality football players. It’s the biggest selling point for XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck in all of his interviews. One of the biggest knocks against the original XFL was their quality of play. There’s always been valid criticism of the original XFL’s rushed environment in which they fielded teams, having only a month-long training camp, of which the AAF is implementing this month in Texas for their February launch.

While the original XFL’s pay scale was higher than that of the Arena League and CFL at the time in 2001, it still wasn’t high enough to attract premium players to their league. The stereotype with most non-NFL leagues is that they are filled with NFL castoffs, never-weres and NFL wannabes. Alternate football leagues have a really hard time shaking that perception to the average fan. The XFL probably has the steepest hill to climb in attempting to sway that perception.

The 2020 pay scale of XFL players is better than it was in 2001, with premium players being paid a reported 250 to 300k per season. However, the alternate football landscape has changed greatly since 2001.

If the XFL had the market to themselves, they could have free reign of all the eligible pro football players on the planet. The goal being to find the players who are good enough to play or start in the NFL but just haven’t gotten the opportunity to do so. That’s the goal with their current scouting department, Optimum run by Eric Galko, is to find the diamonds in the rough who should be pro football players.

The current XFL doesn’t have the game all to itself this time. The Arena league is not the factor it was, even back in 2001. That league has been scaled down greatly but the AAF and CFL are direct competitors for the “other players” available on the open market.

The CFL’s pay scale has gone up considerably in the last two decades. The majority of their star quarterbacks make over 500k a season (Canadian), which equates to about 373 thousand American. In 2002, Edmonton Eskimos Quarterback Ricky Ray was delivering Frito Lay potato chips for $43,000 a year US. That’s more than he made playing QB for Edmonton that year. Ray eventually saw his salary rise to the 400k range and above over time.

The average CFL player still makes about anywhere from 60-80k per year, depending on bonuses. That’s for a 19-game schedule, not counting the preseason and playoffs. The majority of CFL players are not Canadian. So there’s stiil the draw of playing in the states. The CFL is also contending with a potential labor dispute later this spring but cooler heads may prevail in that one.

The AAF is a bigger threat to the XFL’s quality of play. Bill Polian has used his CFL background wisely in structuring the AAF’s contracted players. They have currently 600 players under contract. By February, that number will be whittled down to over 400. So, the AAF got the jump on the “others”. The contracts are set up to be 3 year deals worth 250,000. (Non-guaranteed). That’s if a player makes it to the third year. The base salary in 2019 is supposed to be 50k with a chance to make more based on incentives. There’s also health insurance and an education stipend for players. Where Polian’s genius and CFL background comes into play is the 3-year restriction, that prohibits players under AAF contracts from exploring opportunities in non-NFL leagues. (The XFL). The CFL has had a similar structure in place for awhile. Up until recently, most CFL players were all signed on to 2-year deals. The only out was allowing players to explore NFL opportunities. Which the CFL has been doing in recent weeks. This is how you get players to sign with your league. The UFL made the mistake of trying to charge NFL teams over $100,000 per each UFL player they signed. The move backfired and hurt the league’s chances of signing developmental players.

The Alliance has also positioned themselves under Polian, as being a potential feeder system to the NFL in the future. It’s a way of enticing players to choose their league over the XFL, CFL and any other spring league that comes out of a haze of Ricky Williams smoke cloud.

The NFL also presents a challenge to the XFL’s pursuit in signing secondary football players off of the market. During an NFL season, there are 2,106 total players on their 32 overall rosters. 53 man rosters with 10 player practice squads. As soon as the NFL regular season ends, the 63 player rosters expand to 90 players per team. Street free agents are signed to NFL future contracts. That has started taking place already this week. So, players under NFL contract at seasons end will expand from 2,016 to 2,880. That means that 864 football players who were not under contract with the AAF and that were available, have now signed on to NFL rosters for the off-season.

Not all of the 864 signed players will stick on NFL rosters. Some may not make it through free agency and the draft when teams add new players but it puts some of the XFL’s potential targets like for example QB Joe Callahan who signed with the Bucs or even WR Tre McBride who signed with Washington in temporary limbo. These players are going to try to make an NFL roster before deciding on an alternate course in their pro careers.

Most recently several NFL coaches like Sean Payton have gone on record stating that NFL rosters should be expanded. The practice squad rosters have expanded to 10 in the last decade, but coaches want to expand the current active roster of 53, the idea being so that they can dress more players for games. There may come a time when NFL rosters expand from 53 to 60. That day hasn’t arrived yet but it will hurt the player pool available to alternate pro football leagues.

The XFL is currently in the process of building up the organizations of each of their 8 city teams, as well as hiring head coaches. The next process will be intriguing, as it relates to the league attempting to sign their potential premiere 8 starting quarterbacks. Then comes the process of signing players to league contracts and putting them in a pool to be drafted to XFL teams. Where will the players come from? The pool of potential players is larger and vaster than it was back in 2001 but the competition is stiffer now for those players.

Another point, Oliver Luck has made in interviews is targeting the nearly 900 players who are cut in total by all 32 NFL teams in September. There will certainly be a lot of players available at that point but again, the AAF will be on the market place attempting to sign that same group of players, presumably coming off of their inaugural season where they have already built a name for their fledgling league. If the AAF is still around and the odds are decent that they will make it to year two, the XFL is going to have a challenge in signing those players to play in their league instead. Regardless of the pay. The competition is in selling agents that your league is the right avenue for their players. The XFL based on reputation alone, is going to have a hard time selling football agents on their league.

There are some tweaks that can be made to the game itself, as a way of improving the quality of play regardless of who the players are. The original XFL was defense friendly. All the games were played on grass, defenders were allowed to bump and run and make contact down the field until those rules were changed in mid-season. There was also the ability for defenders to hit offensive players any way they pleased, making it through an entire 10 game season as an XFL quarterback was nearly impossible in 2001. When the smoke cleared, only Tommy Maddox started and played the entire season without missing any time. The new XFL can be the exact opposite. It can be geared towards offenses. They can open up the game with the rules to create a faster looking game with more scoring than the original XFL had. You still need quality players but the new style will help in the presentation.

The original XFL had over a hundred players that had success in other leagues after they folded back in 2001. Some had success in the Arena league, some went on to very good success in the CFL but a good number of them went on to solid NFL careers like Tommy Maddox, Jose Cortez, Brendan Ayanbadjeo, Corey Ivy, Kevin Kaesviharn, Bennie Anderson, Rod Smart, Mike Furrey, Kelly Herndon, etc. Even still, with those players reviving or becoming NFL players as a result of the XFL, the league was still considered to be hindered by it’s poor quality of play. The current XFL braintrust is working hard towards to enhancing what ailed the original league but their task in improving the quality of play may be harder than it was back in 2001.