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: http://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.

 


Is the XFL really going to happen?

by Mike Mitchell @MikeMitchellXFL

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

by Mike Mitchell @MikeMitchellXFL

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

By Mike Mitchell @MikeMitchellXFL

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.