Oliver Luck talks XFL gimmicks, head trauma, the AAF and gambling

On Monday, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was a guest on the Bloomberg Business of Sports Summit podcast.

On Monday, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was a guest on the Bloomberg Business of Sports Summit podcast. Hosts Carol Massar, Michael Barr, and Jason Kelly interviewed Luck about the business aspects of the upcoming league.

When asked about the differences between the old XFL and the new. Luck eagerly responded that the new XFL would be, “a league for serious football fans, where the game is taken seriously.” He added, “It’s an up-tempo, fast-paced kind of a game with fewer breaks and fewer stoppages,” and then pointed out that this was, “one of the things football fans complain about.”

As for innovations, Luck made a point that the game of football, as good as it was, had left room for a few innovations. “We’ve got some innovations we’re looking at doing that we feel will improve the game,” Luck said. “It’s a tough game to improve, because right now, I believe as many fans do, whether it’s the NFL, or major college football, it’s probably at an all time high in terms of the way the game is being played, and the quality of the game.” Luck added, “We feel there are a number of places we can innovate and be a bit different.”

Luck did not go into specific details as to the innovations he was referring to, nor did the interviewers inquire about further information.

When asked about the gimmickry of the 2001 version of the league, Luck pointed out he thought the new XFL would have plenty of “fun moments.” However, he clarified, “What we don’t want to do is have gimmicks. Americans care about football and it’s become sort of our secular religion, and our stadiums are our Cathedral.”

When asked about player nicknames, such as Rod Smart and “He Hate Me,” Luck mentioned, “Rod Smart was a solid player, but it was overshadowed by the name on the jersey.”

More seriously, Luck also spoke about the XFL’s planned response to head trauma. “In 2001, nobody was worried about head trauma. And now, in today’s football world, NFL, College, Pop Warner, High School, there is a serious legitimate concern. So, we want to make sure we are doing things from a health and safety perspective as well.” Later in the interview, he added, “Our players, at least initially, won’t be unionized. So, I think I have to look out as a Commissioner for our players.”

As for competition with the AAF, Luck was quick to point out he felt there was “plenty of space for all of us to coexist” in the current football landscape. “There are 85 million football fans in this country, almost half of whom are diehard passionate fans. We’re going to go into these markets, New York, Washington D.C., Dallas, Houston, Seattle, where we’ve got real passionate fans. Those are not markets where the other league is in, as they are playing in some smaller markets like San Antonio or Salt Lake City… they’ve chosen a little different strategy. I think there is plenty of football, in terms of the ability of the American fan to really enjoy and appreciate the game.”

More specifically, Luck remarked that he had been watching the AAF’s progress. “We’ve watched the Alliance and I think they’ve done some things very well, and some other things I think did not go so well, but we have our own business plan and ideals.”

Luck was also asked how the XFL would approach gambling. “We want to offer a league with Integrity and consistency so that folks do want to in fact gamble, wager. We want Vegas to put a line on our games, which is difficult for a brand-new league. The Alliance is finding that out as well.”

When asked for more details about gambling, Luck was not able to offer many specifics. “That’s all being figured out. It’s taking a relatively slow pace considering the state by state nature of this.” Luck also indicated that “things may not be clearer,” even when the XFL launches in 2020.