XFL Prepares for Inaugural Weekend

(30 January 2001) — In a press conference held on Tuesday, Chairman of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol, started with “the FUN starts on Saturday!”

XFL will kick off it’s first season on Saturday 3 February with the NY/NJ Hitmen at the Las Vegas Outlaws live from Sam Boyd Stadium. The best part is, the game is sold out.

The XFL has met with a major landmark with the inaugural game between the Las Vegas Outlaws and the NY/NJ Hitmen being reported as sold-out. The XFL is also well on its way to exceeding an original goal in ticket sales with over 500,000 tickets now sold league-wide. The original XFL business plan called for 800,000 tickets sold by season’s end. Other inaugural weekend games have also experience high ticket sales: The San Francisco Demons have sold 33,000, the Orlando Rage have sold 25,000 and the Birmingham Bolts have over 20,000 sold. At this point in time, the XFL has also sold over 70% of its television advertising.

What can XFL fans expect to see this weekend?

XFL fans can expect a varied style of play, and maybe a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “The LA Xtreme is going to be wide-open, Orlando will be too,” Dick Butkus, XFL Director of Competition, commented, “Memphis will rely on Saalam who is having a great camp. Chicago will rely on a tough running game. Some of the rules will entice some of the teams to do some outrageous things that wouldn’t normally be expected.”

As for the level of play Dick Butkus is optimistic. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a Kurt Warner pop up, maybe a quarterback, who knows, maybe a running back or lineman.”

Many other innovations will be unveiled on the inaugural NBC broadcast.

Dick Ebersol commented that there will be an “awful lot of interesting stuff” on an XFL broadcast. “Perhaps the most unique thing about the telecast will be the ability to be inside the game”, Ebersol said. “The game on Saturday night will not only have the sky-cam which will fly a camera over the field.” Ebersol added, “We will also have cameras on the field during the game, one behind the defense and one on the offensive side of the field.”

The XFL will use two camera operators on the field during the game. The cameramen will wear helmets and will use cameras that will also feature a special viewfinder where the camera operator can have a better view of the field and the players around him. The camera operators are also reported to be as fit as “world class athletes”. Apparently it takes a lot of energy to cover a game. There will be no sound people on the field during the game. More than sixteen players will be miked during any given game. Sound feeds will be mixed into both the telecast and throughout the stadium sound system. Most live sound feeds will be on a six second delay.

Also, as you may have heard, the XFL had practiced a “ball scramble” to replace the traditional coin toss. Instead of the regular coin toss, the ball was to be placed at midfield and have each team line up in their respective ends. The first team to recover the ball, after a whistle is blown, was to have choice of possession and end.

Dick Butkus, XFL Director of Competition, has cast some doubt on the new “coin-toss” format, and has commented that the XFL has not yet decided to use it. There is some question as to how the new format coin-toss will play out over the long run, and whether this new format will just be a race between the teams two speediest receivers.

The league will decide over the next two days whether the new style “coin toss” will be used.

— Mark Nelson – XFLBoard.com

XFL Gets the Cold Shoulder From Mainstream Sports Sites

Repost: Wall Street Journal

David Sweet – Wall Street Journal

It wasn’t the kind of coverage the XFL expected.

In the Jan. 10 San Jose Mercury News, a report bellowed that a “runaway two-ton blimp” promoting the new football league crashed into an Oakland restaurant.

The XFL hopes to persuade sports news sites it’s worthy of crash coverage — as in helmets colliding when the league kicks off Feb. 3.

Burdened by staffing woes in a troubled dot-com environment and curious to see if fans and sponsors embrace football World-Wrestling-Federation-style, sites are yawning at the blustery upstart.

“I don’t see us spending a lot of staff hours on this,” says George Knue, senior editor of ChicagoSports.com, whose coverage area includes the XFL’s Chicago Enforcers. “I’ve yet to receive my first e-mail complaining about [preseason] lack of coverage.”

Mr. Knue, who admits employee cutbacks will affect coverage, will repurpose Enforcers’ news from the site’s print partner, the Chicago Tribune. The fledgling team will share a section online with the woebegone Bears of the National Football League.

Though brimming with staff writers, CBS SportsLine.com won’t immediately assign one to the XFL. The site’s message to the league: Prove yourself.

“It will be treated much like the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League, but with a keen eye out for developments,” notes Joe Ferreira, vice president of programming for SportsLine.com.

ESPN.com editor John Marvel believes the XFL warrants fewer stories than women’s college basketball.

“They’ve done an interesting job in generating some early buzz, but ultimately it will come down to the product on the field,” says Mr. Marvel, who plans to post results, schedules, standings and wire-written game stories. “If the product stinks, it has no chance of succeeding.”

Coverage factors would seem to favor the XFL. Traditionally the grimmest sports month, February is a wasteland sandwiched between NFL playoffs and March Madness. Whereas newspapers face space crunches, real estate is limitless on the Web.

The XFL, co-owned by the WWF and General Electric Co.’s NBC Sports, is the first new professional football league created since the Internet exploded. Claiming the NFL is dull, the XFL — composed of eight teams — will eliminate the fair-catch rule on the field and encourage cheerleaders to date players off it.

Says John Rawlings, editorial director of the Sporting News Online: “In some instances people in our business are dismissing it [the XFL] because of the WWF-type hoopla. That would be a mistake.”

Embracing the XFL is MSNBCSports.com, the Web arm of NBC Sports. (The network will televise XFL games on Saturday nights.)

Already on the site, players extol the league’s differences with the NFL via audio. A full array of statistics, expert analysis and interactive elements will be introduced in February, according to editor in chief Merrill Brown.

“We will treat it as a major sport,” says Mr. Brown, who acknowledges coverage will be influenced by the NBC relationship. “There will be lots of interest in the new league, I’m sure.”

Other editors, though, doubt fans will rush to mainstream sites for XFL fodder. Mr. Knue compares Chicago’s Enforcers to minor-league teams, such as the International Hockey League’s Timberwolves.

“When we had Wolves’ stuff on our site, no one looked at it,” says Mr. Knue, who notes the team draws decent crowds. “We couldn’t justify doing it. It drives the newspaper guy in me crazy to say things like that.”

Lack of significant coverage on mainstream sports venues — which attract tens of millions of unique visitors monthly — may simply boost XFL.com’s growing presence. In December, XFL.com drew 342,000 unique visitors, only 2,000 fewer than Major League Baseball’s long-established site, according to Media Metrix.

Sports news sites reserve the right to take a second look. If fans and sponsors hop on board, so will dot-com venues.

“We will immediately step up our coverage [in that case],” says SportsLine.com’s Mr. Ferreira.

Until then, XFL news may pop up on sites as comic relief.

Last week, ESPN.com’s Page 2 posed the question: “Who Crashed the XFL Blimp?” Everyone from New York Yankee Jose Canseco to aging Utah center Olden Polynice stood accused of steering the dirigible to disaster.

Mr. Polynice’s suggested alibi surprised no one. “Could have taken out blimp easier by shooting free throws from the ground,” noted ESPN.com.

No Fair Catches: XFL Officially Announces Rules Highlights

STAMFORD, CONN. (Tuesday, January 16, 2001) – Highlighted by the banning of fair catches on punts, the XFL today announced key rules changes for the league’s upcoming season. In addition to eliminating fair catches, the XFL has also modified current punting rules in several other ways to introduce the “most exciting fourth down in football.” Most prominently among these changes is the fact that in the XFL, any punt traveling more than 25 yards will be a live ball recoverable by either team.

“You can sure that no fan will get a drink or go to the bathroom during an XFL punt,” said XFL President Basil V. DeVito, Jr. “When the punter lets fly anything can happen. The strategic possibilities are endless.”

With the banning of the fair catch also comes protection for punt returners in the form of a five-yard protective “halo” by potential tacklers until the punt is caught, and members of the kicking team will not be able to release from the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.

Another major XFL rules change involves the point after touchdown, which also has been changed to eliminate what has become football’s most automatic score. In the XFL, there will be no PAT kicks, instead teams will have to run or pass from the two-yard line to score one point. What’s more, since the clock will be running during this play, any fumbled or intercepted attempt can be returned by the defending team for a one point score of its own.

Taking two pages out of the college rules book, the XFL will require that a receiver or defender need only one foot inbounds to make a reception or interception, and that a quarterback is deemed down when his forward progress is halted, thus there is no “in-the-grasp” rule.

Contrary to some reports, XFL quarterbacks will be protected should they slide or otherwise give themselves up and headslaps are illegal.

In the other major rules changes, the XFL will return to the good old days of pass defense as defensive backs will be able to employ the “bump and run” all the way down the field. The league will also utilize a 35-second clock between plays when the clock has been stopped, 25 seconds when there is no stoppage in time.

“We haven’t really invented any totally new plays but have incorporated certain rules from other professional and collegiate leagues, past and present, to create a faster-paced, higher-excitement brand of football,” said XFL Vice President of Football Operations Mike Keller.

In addition to these rules changes, the XFL also announced that no game will end in a tie due to its “can you top this” overtime rule, in which both teams will get the ball at least once. Each team will get four downs to score from the opponent’s 20 yard line. However, if team A scores a touchdown in less that four downs, team B only gets that many downs to respond.

Should neither team score, or should each team score the same amount of points on the same down, the first time around, they’ll do it again until there’s a winner.

“We think we have come up with an innovative, unique and fair way to decide a game which tied after regulation,” said Keller. “We wanted both teams to get the ball at least once in overtime, but if the first team scores a touchdown on the first play, everyone in the building and everyone watching on TV will know that if the second team doesn’t put it in the end zone on the first play, the game is over.”

All of the league’s rules will soon be available when the XFL distributes its first-ever Rules Book prior to the start of the season on February 3. All XFL rules will be posted on the league’s Web site, XFL.com.

HOW DO XFL RULES DIFFER?

The major rule changes adopted include:

• THE MOST EXCITING FOURTH DOWN IN FOOTBALL: No fair catches are permitted, but the returning player is granted a 5-yard protected area or “halo” where a member of the kicking team may not encroach until the ball is touched, and the kicking team may not cross the line of scrimmage until the ball is punted. At the same time, any punt traveling more than 25 yards past the line of scrimmage is a live ball and can be recovered by either team.
• POINT AFTER TOUCHDOWN: There will be no kicking of extra points. Teams will run a play from the two-yard line, and will receive one point if the conversion is successful. During the conversion the clock will be running, therefore the defensive team can earn one point by returning a fumble or interception into the opponent’s end zone.
• ONE FOOT INBOUNDS: As per the current collegiate rule, a receiver/defender needs only one foot inbounds on a reception/interception.
• SHORTER PLAY CLOCK: Teams have 35 seconds to get a play off after previous play is ruled dead and 25 seconds following any clock stoppage.

OTHERS:

• One man on offense may be in forward motion outside of the tackles
• Defensive players may use bump-and-run tactics on offensive players down the field
• Returning teams must run kickoffs back out of the end zone, unless the kick carries through the end zone.
• Head slaps are illegal
• QB’s who slide can be downed just by contact and cannot be hit
• There is no in the grasp rule, the play stops when forward progress is halted

HOW DOES OVERTIME WORK?

EACH TEAM WILL GET THE BALL AT LEAST ONCE:

• Each team will have four downs from the opponent’s 20-yard line. Team A may not attempt a field goal until fourth down. If Team A scores a touchdown in less than four downs then team B must score in the same number of downs. There will be PAT attempts.

THE BREAKDOWN:

A. Each team will have a possession Exception: Team B intercepts a pass or fumble and returns it for a score. Game over.

B. Ball will be placed on the 20-yard line. No 1st down possible.

C. Team A cannot attempt a field goal until 4th down.

D. If a touchdown is scored by the first team in overtime on either 1st , 2nd , 3rd , or 4th down the team on defense must match the down and the score or be declared the loser.

E. If no touchdown was scored by the first team in overtime, the defense can waive the first three downs and choose a fourth down to attempt a field goal to win the game.

F. PAT attempts will be from the 2-yard line.

G. The defense can return an interception or a fumble for a score. A scrimmage down returned for a touchdown = 6 points. A returned PAT = 1 point.

H. If you score a touchdown and on the try Team B intercepts and returns it for a score, they get one point and the ball on the 20-yard line for a chance to win. Exception: When the team that was on defense first has a PAT returned for a score after the original offensive team had already scored. Example: Team A scores a TD = 6 points but misses the PAT. Team B scores a TD = 6 points. On their PAT, Team A intercepts a pass and returns it for a 1-point score. Team A wins 7-6.

I. If neither team scores or both teams score the same number of points overtime will continue until a winner is declared. The team on defense during the first overtime will be on offense for the second overtime.

Contact:
Ben Grossman — Director of Corporate Communications — (203) 406-3619
Jeff Shapes – Corporate Communications Consultant – (203) 353-5020

XFL Training Camp Cuts

XFL Training Camp Cuts

Birmingham Thunderbolts: 
Waived, CB, Carlos Jones
Waived, RB, Jesse Haynes
Waived, TE, Bryan Arndt
Waived, CB, Raphael Ball
Waived, WR, Chris Ortiz

Las Vegas Outlaws: 
Waived, RB, Leroy Collins
Waived, DT, Tom Degei
Waived, WR, Cedric Tillman
Waived, LB, Troy Dumas
Waived, DT, Bryant Shaw
Waived, CB, Brian Gray
Waived, LB, Julius Jackson
Waived, FB, Carlo Joseph

Orlando Rage: 
Waived, K, Darren Alcorn
Waived, CB, Damon Mason
Waived, RB, Isiah Stoker
Waived, TE, Vince Marrow
Waived, LB, Kenneth Sanders
Waived, WR Anthony Rodgers
Waived, DT, Brad Keeney

Memphis Maniax: 
Waived, DT, Mac Tuiaea
Waived, S, Barry Wilburn
Waived, CB, Tarig Holman
Waived, LB, Jeff Kerr
Waived, G, Craig Moore
Waived, DE, Nate Bell
Waived, WR, Kevin Cooper
Waived, FB, Jeremy Scruggs
Waived, LB, Jim Emanuel

New York/ New Jersey Hitmen: 
Waived, WR, Sean Love
Waived, TE, Marlon Chambers
Waived, QB, Kevin Mason
Waived, LB, Bronzell Miller
Waived, LB, Nakia Reddick,
Waived, RB, Malcolm Thomas
Waived, DT, Nate Williams
Waived, WR, James Battle

NBC names Jesse Ventura XFL Analyst

January 10, 2001

Jesse Ventura was recently named an analyst on NBC’s upcoming XFL broadcasts. The joint announcement was made by Dick Ebersol, Chairman NBC Sports and Olympics and Vince McMahon, Chairman of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. The XFL, which is co-owned and operated by WWFE, Inc. and NBC, begins its first season on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2001. NBC will televise a weekly game in primetime each Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

“We’re thrilled to have one of the most interesting and colorful people in America today joining us as an integral part of the XFL,” said Ebersol. “This demonstrates our commitment to present real football in a fresh, new, fun way.”

Said McMahon: “The XFL will be the best reality show on television and nobody can add color commentary to our brand of football the way Jesse Ventura can. He’s naturally opinionated, charismatic, and genuine — just like the XFL will be. From day one, we’ve promised that the XFL will allow the true personality of the game to shine and we believe that Jesse is the best person to make that happen.”

Ventura’s previous broadcasting experience includes two years (1989-90) as the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio analyst. He also worked one season on Minnesota Vikings radio broadcasts. In addition, Ventura hosted a sports radio talk show in Minneapolis.

Ventura’s professional wrestling career spanned 11 years. He was known as one of the best interviews and most colorful and popular entertainers in the sport. When his in-ring career was complete, he became an analyst with the WWF and co-hosted the WWF’s “Prime Time Wrestling.” He also hosted a WWF talk show called “The Body Shop.”

In 1984, Ventura – a former Navy SEAL who served in Vietnam – retired from wrestling and became an actor. He has appeared in several films including Predator (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Batman & Robin.

The XFL’s eight teams will play a 10-week regular season and a two-week playoff, culminating with the XFL championship game on April 21, 2001. XFL rule modifications – most notably its “no fair catch” rule – are designed to add excitement while encouraging offense.

NBC’s coverage will provide viewers with an “all-access backstage pass” through the use of cameras and microphones placed everywhere from the players and coaches themselves to the huddles and sidelines.

The eight teams are: Birmingham Thunderbolts, Chicago Enforcers, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Orlando Rage, Memphis Maniax, San Francisco Demons, Los Angeles Xtreme and Las Vegas Outlaws.

XFL PRE-SEASON TRAINING CAMPS UNDERWAY IN ORLANDO AND LAS VEGAS; SEASON TO KICKOFF FEBRUARY 3

With kickoff of the inaugural XFL season only one month away, the league’s eight teams have opened their first-ever pre-season training camps in Orlando and Las Vegas.

Officially getting underway this past Monday with player physicals, team meetings and other administrative activities, on-field practice starts today for the coaching staffs and 70-man squads in each camp. Over the next four weeks, teams will prepare for the season’s February 3 kickoff, with rosters being trimmed to 38 active players and seven reserves by January 28.

Training in the Orlando area will be the XFL’s four East Division teams (Birmingham Thunderbolts, Chicago Enforcers, New York/New Jersey Hitmen and Orlando Rage) while the West Division squads (Las Vegas Outlaws, Los Angeles Xtreme, Memphis Maniax and San Francisco Demons) will workout in the Las Vegas area.

“The opening of training camps represents another major milestone in the development of our league,” said XFL President, Basil V. DeVito, Jr. “The creation of the XFL was announced on February 3, 2000 and our season begins February 3, 2001, so this means we’re in the homestretch.”

The XFL is jointly owned and operated by World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: WWF) and NBC.