Investing in the XFL

Vince McMahon has already invested millions, but veteran players like Charles James may be called upon to invest their talents in the XFL. So will coaches, business partners and fans. Will they invest in the XFL?

There’s no question at this point about XFL owner Vince McMahon’s financial investment in XFL 2020. In 2018 alone, McMahon invested 123 million dollars to start up and fund the reborn league, by selling off shares of his company, the WWE. McMahon also laid the foundation of the league by investing huge money into insurance and workers compensation. This was done before the league’s relaunch was announced in January of 2018. A huge hurdle, and a must for any sports league.

On March 28th of this year, Vince McMahon sold 272 million dollars of WWE stock to fund the XFL even further. A fact that many mainstream sports outlets picked up on after the AAF folded on April 2nd. It made for a fun narrative, the idea that McMahon saw the AAF folding and then decided to cash out a large sum of money. The funder of the XFL is the league’s founder, a big factor in any league’s chance for survival and success. Vince McMahon is fully invested in a league that was his original idea, a league that folded against his wishes, and a league that he has thought of bringing back for years. Think of XFL2020 as the final item on Vince McMahon’s bucket list. The 73-year-old, who is worth over 3 billion dollars, is taking one last giant gamble. McMahon is emotionally and financially invested in what could very well be his last big project. The capital investment can’t be questioned. It’s the investment of other entities that will help decide the reborn XFL’s long term viability.

THE FANS

Getting fans and the sports viewing public to invest in the XFL, will be extremely difficult, for various reasons. It starts with changing the perception of the league, which is tainted by its 2001 existence. That’s an uphill battle, in and of itself. The folding of the AAF hasn’t helped matters at all. While many will point to the demise of that league, as being a positive for the XFL’s chances, simply because the league is now positioned to have the marketplace all to itself. The AAF’s existence and disintegration has poisoned the waters. The marketplace for spring pro football leagues has proven to not be fertile ground in the past. The sad tale of the AAF reinforced that notion. They have made the market an absolute wasteland. After what just transpired with the Alliance, how can the sports viewing public trust another league? There are a lot of sports fans who don’t believe in the idea of spring pro football to begin with, let alone the fans who actually do or in this case… did.

There are a lot of fans who truly believed in the Alliance. Many bought into the notion that the AAF would finally be the league that made it. The league positioned themselves as potential partners of the NFL. It was sold as a league that wasn’t trying to pollute the football ecosystem, but to enhance it. While the naysayers will mock the AAF’s level of popularity, based on poor attendance or the followings in small non-NFL cities like Salt Lake, Memphis etc.  An example of this would be, the last Salt Lake primetime game on the NFL Network didn’t even crack the top 150 rated shows on cable. Despite the failings of some of the weak markets, the AAF had a lot of believers. Not just the players, coaches and football people who bought in, but most importantly the fans.

The fans can make or break any sports league or entertainment property. You could strongly argue that the AAF hurt the chances of another spring league earning the trust and faith of football fans. The Alliance’s founder Charlie Ebersol wrote a lot of checks with his grand promises that the league couldn’t cash.  How can you trust another football league, when the AAF couldn’t even finish one season? Why should football fans invest all their time and energy on a non-NFL league?  The Alliance burned a lot of its supporters faith. The now bankrupt league let them down. It’s only fair to assume that it will be that much harder for any new league to earn these fans trust again. Why buy in to the XFL or waste any time or energy on it, when the end result could end up being the same? The Alliance ended up being a league with false promises that will forever leave their supporters feeling cheated. An incomplete season from a league that was born from an incomplete idea, and operated with an incomplete business model.

The XFL is going to have its work cut out for it, to undo the damage done by the AAF towards football fans and believers in the concept of an alternative pro-football league. The XFL has eight strong football and tv markets. This will help in their exposure and in their upcoming TV rights deal with their broadcast partners. While spring pro-football is designed to fill the void of no NCAA or NFL football. There will still be competition to gain the interest and attention of football fans and the viewing public.

This past week, the XFL announced two more coaching hires. One in New York with former two-time Superbowl Champion Kevin Gilbride, and one in St. Louis, with virtually unknown but respected long time NFL player and assistant coach Jonathan Hayes. While New York has always been a tough town to earn respect, it’s the hiring of Hayes in STL that has raised eyebrows and drawn some criticism. To this point, the XFL following in Saint Louis has been its strongest. The league’s decision to hire Hayes rather than someone with ties to STL football past, has not exactly lit a fire or moved the needle in that market. Of all the potential fan bases and team locations in the reborn XFL. St. Louis has the most to prove to the football world. It appears that the XFL and Hayes were in talks long before the AAF folded, which negated the possibility of a familiar face from Saint Louis past like Mike Martz strolling in to run the franchise. Winning is a cure all, but the league getting St. Louis to make a larger investment in the league didn’t soar after this week’s hire. The market has a chance to be the XFL’s strongest. Will STL buy in? Will the XFL’s other markets and fans invest their time and energy into the league, like AAF supporters did? Time will tell. It’s up to the league to earn their trust and support.

THE COACHES

Lost in the criticism of some of the XFL’s coaching hires, is how difficult it is to even get football coaches to commit to an upstart football league. Signing on to be the Head Coach/GM of the XFL is a risk, and anyone that signs on with the XFL is taking a gamble. In their most honest of moments, employees of the XFL will admit that they don’t know if the league is going to work or last. The odds and history are against it. This level of risk and feeling is multiplied by the coaches that buy into the XFL. Uprooting families is a part of being a coach. As a head coach, you have to convince at least a dozen other coaches to do the same and take the plunge along with you.

Kevin Gilbride is going to ask people he knows and that he has worked with in the past, to take a leap of faith and move their families to New York, to join his staff. All the while, he has to be thinking “I really hope this league doesn’t fold.” If you listen to all the top executives in the AAF, talk about that league folding. Their biggest regret is how many people they convinced to take on a job that only lasted a few months. Many of the top execs will land on their feet or have already had fruitful careers. It’s the people who took risks and left stable jobs to join the AAF operations teams and staffs, that were hit the hardest. CBS Sports writer Ben Kercheval recently revealed on Twitter, that a potential lawsuit could be coming on behalf of the AAF’s assistant coaches, many of whom are struggling to find jobs because this time period isn’t traditionally hiring season for football coaches. Hundreds of coaches left in a lurch, because they were sold a bill of goods.

Getting coaches to invest in an upstart league will be tough after what happened with the AAF. These coaches won’t be easy to convince. Credit to the current group of XFL coaches, who have decided to buy in and invest themselves in the league and what it aims to be.

BUSINESS PARTNERS

This covers a lot of ground. From the league’s broadcast partners to local vendors, venues and businesses. After what just happened with the AAF, as revealed in their recent bankruptcy filing, some vendors and businesses are going to expect the XFL to pay them upfront. Can you really blame them?

If you are looking to open up a nightclub on Main Street, and the last nightclub that was there, had crime issues and burned down the neighborhood, you are going to have a hard time convincing the land owners and community that your nightclub can be trusted. The XFL is going to need sponsors far and wide to invest their time and energy into partnering with them. They have to be sold that it’s a solid long-term investment and that it will be beneficial to all parties.

The XFL’s broadcast partners also need to be fully invested in the long game. The original XFL got burned by its broadcast partners. NBC bailed on the league and took it’s contractually obligated 50 million dollars in year two with them. Vince McMahon did not pursue the funding that was legally owed to him and his league. He very easily could have fought it and won, but his relationship with Dick Ebersol played a factor in McMahon not pushing the issue. When NBC bailed on the original XFL, the league’s remaining broadcast partners UPN and TNN tried to leverage their broadcast deals with the WWE in exchange for a second season of the XFL. McMahon was forced to choose, and with no major funding or national exposure, Vince had to begrudgingly close up shop. It’s extremely important that the XFL’s current broadcast partners are fully on board with the vision of the league, and they have bought into the concept of building the league from the ground up, rather than expecting a quick return on all the time and money invested. The league in return, has to prove that they are viable for the long haul. The business and football infrastructure has to run like a well-oiled machine from day one.

THE PLAYERS

This is always the easiest and most dependable area to get an investment from. Especially when it comes to the greater good of pro-football in the United States. As chronicled here last week in my “Keeping the dream alive for all football players” article, football players need a pro-league like the XFL to exist. There will be thousands upon thousands of draft eligible college football players that will not be drafted this coming Thursday by the NFL. Ninety-eight percent of the over 16,000 draft eligible players won’t even make it to the NFL or have the opportunity to become pro football players.

There will be some veteran players that will be skeptical about signing on with the XFL. Some will hold out hope for another shot in the NFL, and some will debate whether the XFL is worth all their time, energy and focus, despite what the league will be paying. For example, twenty-eight-year-old veterans like defensive back Charles James, who has been with seven NFL teams, and has been cut seven times. He took a chance to continue playing pro-football in the states with the AAF, only to see that league fold eight games in. Veterans like James have to be convinced that investing themselves in the XFL will be worth it.

Warren Buffett, the business magnate, is considered to be one of the best and most successful investors in the world. He has a funny quote when it comes to investing: “If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” In short, this quote warns us that things change with time. It warns us that caution is an important part of success. It also implies a lot of other things, mostly that everything changes, and only what has happened in the past is written in stone. This may very well be so, but in order for a stock or a business to grow, it all starts with the investment of faith and trust. Something the XFL has to earn.

Jonathan Hayes Named XFL Head Coach in St. Louis

The XFL today announced that Jonathan Hayes, the Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach for the last 16 seasons and a standout NFL tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers, has been named the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in St. Louis.

St. Louis, Mo., April 18, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Jonathan Hayes, the Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach for the last 16 seasons and a standout NFL tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers, has been named the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in St. Louis.

The XFL team in St. Louis will play its home games at The Dome at America’s Center when the league kicks off in February 2020.

“It’s an honor to provide Jon an opportunity to be a head coach for the first time after 37 years as a player and assistant coach in the NFL and at the college level,” said XFL Commissioner & CEO, Oliver Luck. “Jonathan comes with an offensive perspective that should help him thrive as we reimagine the game and engineer a style of play that’s fast and brisk. We are excited to welcome him to the XFL family.”

“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to be the head coach and general manager of the XFL’s team in St. Louis,” said Hayes. “I spent most of my NFL playing career in Missouri, and also played college ball in the Midwest, so I know firsthand that you won’t find better football fans anywhere. We’re going to work hard and put together a team that’s fun and exciting to watch, and that the fans of St. Louis can rally around and support.”

Hayes joins Kevin Gilbride (New York), Pep Hamilton (Washington, D.C.), Bob Stoops (Dallas), Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay) and Jim Zorn (Seattle) as the XFL head coaches named to date.

Hayes was named the Bengals’ tight ends coach in 2003 and worked alongside head coach Marvin Lewis through the conclusion of the 2018 season. Before coaching in the NFL, he served as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Oklahoma for four seasons (1999-02) under head coach Bob Stoops. The 2000 Oklahoma team, with Stoops at the helm and Hayes on staff, went 13-0 and won the national championship.

As an NFL player, Hayes was Kansas City’s second-round draft pick in 1985 out of the University of Iowa. He spent nine seasons with the Chiefs before finishing his career with the Steelers (1994-96). Hayes played in 184 NFL games with 153 career receptions for 1718 yards and 13 TDs. He played in three AFC Championship games and one Super Bowl (SB XXX, Pittsburgh vs. Dallas).

In college, Hayes played tight end and linebacker at the University of Iowa (1981-84), where he was a team captain and earned first-team All-America honors as a senior. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in general studies from Iowa.

Hayes resides in Loveland, Ohio with his wife and four children.

XFL St. Louis Head Coach to be announced Thursday

The XFL will announce the St. Louis team head Coach/General Manager on Thursday, April 18th.

The XFL will announce the St. Louis team head Coach/General Manager on Thursday, April 18th. This will be the second Head Coach staffing announcement in two days.

  • When: Thursday April 18 at 12:00 PM CT
  • Where: The Dome at America’s Center

Of the eight XFL teams, the first five Head Coaches have been announced: Bob Stoops (Dallas) on 7 February, Pep Hamilton (Washington) on 21 February, Jim Zorn (Seattle) on 25 February, Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay) on 5 March, and Kevin Gilbride (New York) on 16 April.  It should be noted there was a long pause before Gilbride was announced.

With Thursdays announcement happening so soon, it appears the XFL may be ready to quickly announce the Head Coaches of the remaining franchises.  As of Thursday, the franchises in Los Angeles and Houston will be still without a Head Coach.

Prior to the past Head Coach announcements, there were strong rumors indicating the candidate. So far, there are no strong rumors as to who the St. Louis candidate may be.

Kevin Gilbride Named XFL New York Head Coach

New York, N.Y., April 16, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Kevin Gilbride, a former NFL head coach with nearly four-decades of football coaching experience, has been named the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in New York.

The New York team will play at MetLife Stadium when the league kicks off in February 2020. Janet Duch, most recently Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for On Location Experiences, was today named the team’s President.

“Vince McMahon and I are thrilled that Kevin Gilbride has joined us and will guide the XFL team in New York,” said XFL Commissioner & CEO, Oliver Luck. “Kevin has 40 years of experience as a football coach at the college and pro levels, including ten years in New York with the Giants, so he is uniquely qualified to work in this market and knows the heartbeat of the local football fan. He’s an offensive-minded coach, and understands the quicker style of play we want to be a hallmark of the XFL when we launch in February.”

“I’m proud to be named the head coach and general manager of the XFL’s New York team, and I want to thank Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck for the opportunity,” said Gilbride. “I spent ten great years as a coach in New York, so I know how savvy and passionate fans here can be. I’ve missed the sidelines, and can’t wait to hire a staff and get to work building the best team we can.”

Gilbride joins Pep Hamilton (Washington, D.C.), Bob Stoops (Dallas), Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay) and Jim Zorn (Seattle) as the XFL head coaches named to date.

As a head coach, Gilbride spent two seasons leading the San Diego Chargers (1997-98), and five guiding his alma mater, Southern Connecticut State University (1980-84).

Gilbride’s coaching career began in the college ranks, first as a linebackers coach at Idaho State (1974-75) and Tufts University (1976-77), before becoming defensive coordinator at American International University (1978-79). Following his stint as head coach at SCSU, he spent two seasons at the professional level as quarterbacks/wide receivers coach for the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders (1985-86), then returned to college football as passing game coordinator (1987) and offensive coordinator (1988) for East Carolina University.

In 1989, Gilbride made the jump to the NFL where he spent the next 25 years on the sidelines as a quarterbacks coach for the Houston Oilers (1989) and New York Giants (2004-06); offensive coordinator for the Oilers (1990-94), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995-96), Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-2000), Buffalo Bills (2002-03) and Giants (2007-13), and two seasons as head coach of the Chargers. As Oilers’ quarterbacks coach, he worked with Warren Moon who passed for more than 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns. A year later, as offensive coordinator, the Oilers scored 405 points, with Moon passing for more than 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. As Giants’ quarterbacks coach, he was entrusted with the early NFL career of Eli Manning, and as the team’s offensive coordinator the two would combine to win a pair of Super Bowl championships (XLII & XLVI).

Gilbride played quarterback and tight end at Southern Connecticut State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. He continued his studies at Idaho State University, earning a master’s degree in Athletic Administration.

Born in New Haven, Conn., Gilbride resides in Naples, Fla. with his wife, Deborah. The couple has three children, daughters Kelly and Kristen, and son, Kevin M. Gilbride who is the Chicago Bears tight ends coach.

Media Contact: Stephanie Rudnick – XFL Stephanie.Rudnick@xfl.com media@xfl.com

XFL Names Janet Duch President of New York Team

New York, N.Y., April 16, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Janet Duch, most recently Senior Vice President of On Location Experiences and a long-time executive at Madison Square Garden, has been named President of the XFL football team in New York.

The New York team will play at MetLife Stadium when the league kicks off in February 2020. Kevin Gilbride, a former NFL head coach with nearly four decades of football coaching experience, was today named the team’s head coach and general manager.

Duch will be responsible for the team’s fan engagement and business operations, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marketing, content, communications, community relations, and the game day experience.

“Vince, Oliver and I are happy to welcome Janet to the XFL and know that she and Coach Gilbride will successfully deliver an outstanding gameday experience,” said Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer. “Janet has a seasoned understanding of New York sports fans and the skills required to help us quickly connect with the community.”

“It’s a great privilege to help lead the XFL’s New York team and help evolve the football experience, on and off the field,” said Duch. “I’m excited for the opportunity to build a new organization and engage the passionate football fans we have in the tri-state area. Our mission is to bring fans closer to the game they love.”

Duch served since 2016 as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for On Location Experiences, a leading premium hospitality business. Prior to that she spent 18 years with Madison Square Garden. As Senior Vice President of both the New York Rangers and New York Knicks, she was a principal architect in developing and managing the brand identities of both teams and leading go-to-market ticketing and retention strategies, along with in-game entertainment, merchandise, community relations, and digital and fan engagement initiatives and programs.

Duch was named to the Sports Business Journal’s prestigious Forty Under 40 in 2015, the same year she was honored by Leaders in Sports as one of its Forty Under 40, Marketing & Communications.

Duch earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a student-athlete on the volleyball team. She resides in New Jersey.

Media Contact: Stephanie Rudnick – XFL Stephanie.Rudnick@xfl.com media@xfl.com

Kevin Gilbride rumored to be the first Head Coach of XFL New York

Kevin Gilbride rumored to be the first Head Coach of XFL New York

On Tuesday, the XFL is planning to hold a press conference in New York’s Times Square to announce the Head Coach/General manager, and the President of their New York franchise. Today, Fox Sports announcer Jay Glazer reported that the Head Coach candidate would be Kevin Gilbride.

The 67-year-old Gilbride has a New York connection as he is a former member of the New York Giants’ coaching staff, serving for ten seasons.  The last seven seasons of his tenure he served as their offensive coordinator, and served in this role during the Giant’s two most recent Super Bowl championships. Gilbride retired from the Giant’s after the 2013 season.

Prior to coaching with the Giants, Gilbride was Head Coach for San Diego, where he posted a 6-16 record between 1997 and 1998. He has plenty of other NFL experience, as he has been a member of the coaching staff of the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburg Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Oilers.

Early in his football career, Gilbride attended Southern Connecticut State University, where he played both quarterback and tight end.

Keeping the dream alive for all football players

The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away. Over a three-day period, players will achieve their dreams by graduating into the pros. Lost in the celebration is how the vast majority of college football players are having their dreams crushed at the same time.

The leap from playing college football to the pros crushes the dreams of so many players. On April 3rd, The NCAA released its research report on the estimated probability of their athletes competing in pro sports. In regards to football, using data from 2018, only 1.6 percent of the 16,346 draft-eligible NCAA football participants made it into the NFL. 256 of these players were drafted, and a few hundred were signed onto NFL teams as undrafted free agents, with the potential of making an NFL roster in the summer.  Other players were brought into NFL rookie camps with an opportunity to latch on, but the overwhelming majority of these players didn’t make those teams.

We are talking about talented young football players, many of whom have dedicated their entire youth to the game. Thousands of them every year that made the journey from high school football into college. For many, that journey ends when their college playing days are over. More than ninety-eight percent end up seeing their dreams of becoming a pro-football player die.

Football fans are excited that the NFL Draft is less than two weeks away. It’s one of the most exciting periods for College football programs, for all thirty-two NFL teams, and the fans that follow them. It’s a week that celebrates college and pro football. Over a three-day period, these entities combine for a celebration, where players achieve their dreams by graduating into the pros. If you take a step back and take a 30,000 foot view, lost in the celebration is how the vast majority of college football players are having their dreams crushed at the same time.

It’s the reality of sports and the numbers game. On the flip side, and at the same time that 254 players are being drafted into the NFL, current NFL veterans on the NFL 90-player rosters have to worry about losing their jobs and careers because a whole new group of young players are coming into the league. There are only so many spots available. The average NFL career went down last year to a shade under four years. This is a combination of injuries involved with the sport, but also the constant turnover with rosters. There are so many players in their mid to late twenties that don’t get to see their second contracts, let alone their third. Getting into the NFL is extremely difficult, and then staying in is just as hard.

All these factors are why anyone that loves football and the players, should be rooting for non-NFL pro-football leagues to exist and thrive. With the AAF’s demise, in what now feels like a really slow and miserable death, one of the avenues to continue on as a pro-football player is no more. With each day, the stories get exceedingly worse. Over a thousand employees lost their jobs, not to mention all the people who benefitted from the league’s existence, like workers at venues and local businesses. The biggest victims however are the players. For many of the executives and office workers, their careers are not over. The path is difficult, but there’s still a chance for their professional careers to continue. The football players themselves, are the true human capital for all these leagues. Without them, these leagues don’t exist or thrive. Football players have always been the human capital for NCAA football and for the NFL. There is a very small window for pro-football players to have careers. For some it ends in their twenties, and for others who are extremely lucky, in their thirties. You can be a sports executive or work in a front office until you are in your sixties, but that’s not the case for any football player who wants to continue their professional career. Time is not their friend. The countdown clock on their careers starts ticking immediately once they step on the field.

On the bright side of the AAF’s demise, as of press time, forty-nine AAF players have signed on to be a part of 90-player rosters in the NFL. That’s more than ten percent of the league’s players. It’s evidence as to why there should be more than one pro league in the United States. Not all of these players will make it onto NFL rosters or practice squads, come September’s huge 864 player cut down day, but getting game time in the AAF helped them get another chance. Some were talented enough to potentially get another shot without the AAF, but there’s no question that playing in that league helped them. 416 players all put their faith into the AAF by signing three-year non-guaranteed contracts. These contracts only allowed them to leave the league for an NFL opportunity. Unfortunately, over 300 of them are currently being prohibited from pursuing their pro playing careers outside of the NFL. Great leagues like the CFL, which has carved out its own niche and stood the test of time, are not being allowed to open the door for players to continue their pro-playing careers. Over 80 plus percent of the AAF’s 416 players will not even have a chance to play in the NFL this year. Some of the current 49 players that latched on to NFL squads, will make the league. Some won’t. These leagues exist for the betterment of football and its players.

Even the original XFL back in 2001, had several players go on to have NFL careers. Names like Tommy Maddox, Rod ‘He Hate Me’ Smart, Paris Lenon, Kevin Swayne, Bennie Anderson, Kelly Herndon, Mike Furrey, Corey Ivy, Steve Gleason, Kevin Kaesviharn, Jose Cortez, and over a dozen more all made NFL rosters, and had extended pro-playing careers, as a result of playing in the XFL. A good number of the XFL’s players that didn’t make NFL rosters after the league folded, ended up in the CFL and the Arena League. Players like Bobby Singh ended up having the distinction of winning an NFL Championship, a Grey Cup championship and an XFL Championship. There are several other success stories from the league. Players that are currently coaches in the NFL, and two starting XFL Quarterbacks are now in the college ranks: Jeff Brohm with Purdue and Tim Lester with Western Michigan. These leagues provide a gateway and an avenue for football careers to continue and survive.

Is the current XFL our final hope for a non-NFL pro league? For a long time, it appeared as if the winners of a spring pro football battle between the XFL and AAF would be the players, with both leagues employing nearly a thousand of them at the same time. With that possibility gone. the XFL, for now, is left standing. So many of these leagues have died. The odds are heavily against the XFL standing the test of time and defeating history, despite the immense amount of capital invested by the founder, who is also the funder. This is a key point that ultimately killed the AAF. Over 80 percent of all startup businesses fail. One of the central themes for them failing is that the founders aren’t the funder. They scramble for investors to buy in to something that they are not emotionally invested in. The founder may be emotionally and spiritually invested, but without the proper funding, the founders company dies.

Make no mistake about it, and while most don’t want to admit it, the XFL existing is great for the sport of football, but more importantly for the players. While the league continues to add to its football operations side, with the upcoming Team President and Head Coach hire in New York this Tuesday, it’s the players that will ultimately decide whether the league is viable. When most of the detractors of these types of leagues take shots at the talent level. We should just shrug it off and forgive them for their ignorance. The 1.6 percent of all college football players that make the NFL is what makes that league the greatest level of football talent on the planet. While there is no denying that the NFL is the absolute pinnacle of football talent and players, that doesn’t mean there are not any more players who are capable of playing good pro-football. It just means that there isn’t enough room for all of them.

XFL New York Head Coach and President to be announced on Tuesday

The XFL will announce the New York team head Coach/General Manager and Team President on Tuesday, April 16th.

  • When: Tuesday April 16 at 12:00 PM ET
  • Where: Castell Rooftop at the AC Hotel Times Square

Of the eight XFL teams, the first four Head Coaches were announced in February and early March: Bob Stoops (Dallas) on 7 February, Pep Hamilton (Washington) on 21 February, Jim Zorn (Seattle) on 25 February, and Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay) on 5 March.  Afterward, there has been a long pause before any new Head Coaches have been announced, which has left XFL followers to wait patiently for news. On 16 April, they will have the type of news they were waiting for.

Prior to the past Head Coach announcements, there were strong rumors indicating the candidate. So far, there are no strong rumors as to who the candidate may be.

The XFL has also previously announced Team Presidents: Heather Brooks Karatz (Los Angeles) on 21 March, Ryan Gustafson (Seattle) on 26 March, and Erik A. Moses (Washington) on 29 March. Next Tuesday’s announcement will mark the occasion of the fourth team President to join the XFL organization.

A Death In the Football Family

The AAF showed there can be a market for an alternative football league. Will any league be able to make it work or will they all just suffer the same fate.

I am still in a state of disbelief. The AAF is no more. They have suspended operations and cancelled their inaugural season just days after completing week 8, and just weeks before their league playoffs were set to begin and end with a championship. Even as I type this, I am still hoping there will be some type of last second save made. I’m in denial. This is a sad day for all true football fans. One that has become all too familiar to anyone who has followed or supported any non-NFL league in the last four decades. Fans of these types of leagues are die-hard football fans. True fans of the sport who follow and root for all football players, coaches and teams on any level. When an entire league dies, so many dreams, hopes and careers end up dying along with it.  In one fell swoop, thousands of football people lost their jobs.

Long time football fans have seen this story before. It always ends the same way. It’s like watching the end of The Sopranos series. As the late great James Gandolfini is listening to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, he looks up and the screen fades to black. No matter how many times you re-watch the ending. It never changes. Die-hard football fans have never stopped believing in the possibility of a non-NFL league making it in the states, and yet the dream of just that always fades away to nothing.

It’s a sad day for all the fans, players, coaches and team employees that invested so much time and energy to the AAF. For many of them, this felt like the real thing. Like the AAF was going to finally be the one league that made it.

With the writing on the wall, the legendary Steve Spurrier held court with the Orlando media and answered questions. As I listened, my eyes were transfixed on the young man standing next to him. He appeared to be an assistant. He was wearing an Apollos hat and shirt. Not sure the identity of this young man, but there he was waiting on the “Old Ball Coach” to wrap up his interview, so that he can assist him. Waiting to do a job that wouldn’t be waiting for him tomorrow.

The death of the AAF reminds all future leagues of the fate that may eventually be waiting for them. These leagues have the odds and history heavily against them. Over the last several months on this site, I have chronicled the life and death of several upstart football leagues. From the World Football League to the USFL, the original XFL, NFL Europe, the United Football League and several others. The graveyards are filled with the corpses of now defunct football leagues, who dreamed big and failed in spectacular fashion. Almost all of their deaths related to mismanagement and a lack of funds. Too much money going in, not enough coming back. Even the almighty NFL lost tens of millions on the World League of American Football and then NFL Europe, before pulling the plug over a decade ago.

There are several leagues that failed to even launch because of financial issues. So many leagues that have long since been forgotten. The ones that did succeed in launching barely resembled a true league. The FXFL tried out a fall feeder league for the NFL. It flopped miserably. They played in small venues with tiny crowds and with only a handful of teams. They wound up playing only two seasons and only 13 games. The FXFL has now become The Spring League, which is basically a four-team, two-game a year showcase set of games. It wasn’t a real league when it was the FXFL, and it’s called one now but that’s only in name. My family, friends and I get together to play a series of games during Thanksgiving weekend. It’s four teams, and we play for a couple of days but we don’t call ourselves “The Fall League.” Ten years and running. If we had a joint twitter account, we’d brag about it…

A league like the United Football League was funded by a billionaire in William Hambrecht. They actually made it to four seasons, kind of… They could never expand beyond five teams and ended up relocating some of them. Costs were too high. They never got their TV rights deal. They flopped at the gate with hundreds of fans sitting in large college and NFL stadiums. By the time, that league ended they were drowning in debt. They couldn’t even afford to feed their employees or equip their players. Employees are still owed money by that league. The UFL even had owners like Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul, failing to pay his employees. Reports are now coming out about the AAF skimping on costs and short-changing employees because of a lack of funds. From not covering travel costs to not allowing their doctors, trainers and equipment people to eat.

Should we all have seen this coming with The Alliance of American Football? Some of its supporters and fair-minded critics did see and point out the warning signs. The league rushed into play, with barely a year to form. Like the elimination of the kickoff, the AAF started their drive on the 25-yard line with no real return to get started. The ball was immediately placed on the field. The league rushed to find any markets or venues that would take them on short notice. They had to pass on St. Louis because of a scheduling conflict. As a result of the league rushing, they ended up in several small market cities like Salt Lake, which could barely draw 8,000 fans. The AAF bragged about utilizing fantasy and gambling but had no teams in legalized gambling states. The league’s highly touted App launched just days before kickoff. The fantasy of gambling and the gambling of fantasy were simply not there in their bare-boned app. The AAF had only a month-long training camp before the season started. During this time, several coaches left the league. Brad Childress stepped down as Atlanta’s coach. Michael Vick never assumed his highly promoted duties as offensive coordinator of the Legends. Other coaches like Hugh Freeze, Hal Mumme, Cadillac Williams, Jon Kitna and others all left before the league even launched.

Then the season began. The AAF managed to launch and get itself some decent exposure but it was all done at the last second. Only two major network games on CBS were slotted. A third was added later. NFL Network stepped up, as did TNT to help the league, but the AAF did not have a traditional TV rights package. The networks helped cover some of the costs, but the league itself wasn’t getting a significant amount of money that leagues like the WNBA or MLS normally get. That TV money is used by these leagues to help fund their teams and cover costs. The AAF’s TV deal, despite looking great on paper because of their network names and NFL association, was pretty close to being an infomercial type deal.

Week One produced so much promise and hope for the AAF. Yet, behind the scenes, things unraveled quickly. Despite the league’s critical acclaim and success in week one, their main investor Reggie Fowler decided that the league wasn’t worth any further investment, and bailed. He had already sunk a reported 28 million in the league. Carolina Hurricanes owner and Dallas Billionaire Tom Dundon came in to the make the save, but his financial save comes at a big cost. The league founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian became Dundon’s league. Ebersol and Polian relinquished all control in order to save the league. Once Tom Dundon got inside the door, he got to see exactly what he was inheriting. The league’s promotion and marketing were minimal and it showed at the gate. With the majority of the league’s teams doing poorly in attendance, specifically in the league’s small markets like Salt Lake, the league ended up only averaging a little over 15,000 fans per game. San Antonio, Orlando and San Diego all did well, but the remaining markets all under-performed. The league had no real profitability in the short term, and in the end, Tom Dundon didn’t see the long game being profitable either, and decided to not bleed any more of his money into the league. I strongly contend that the Dundon’s grandstand on forcing the NFLPA to allow their players to play in the AAF, was just a red herring and an excuse to get out now. The future contract player excuse was just a life preserver used to get off what he deemed as a sinking ship.

Who knows what the future holds? In their final email/address to their employees, the AAF told their soon to be terminated employees, that there will be a small group of employees retained, to help the company seek new investment capital and to restructure the business. There’s a tease of a potential season two if they are able to be successful in those efforts.

So where does this leave the 2020 version of the XFL? With the marketplace presumably left all to themselves. For a time it appeared like there would be a legit and unique spring football competition between the AAF and XFL, two leagues that were born and re-born because of the original XFL. The XFL did release a statement about the suspension of the AAF. They were asked by several media parties for comment. Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal got a response.

XFL Statement on suspension of AAF: 
“We have said all along the success or failure of other leagues will have no impact on our ability to deliver high-quality, fast-paced, professional football. The XFL is well-funded, we have time before kick-off to execute our business plan, and we will soon announce a national broadcast and cable TV schedule that makes it easy for fans to find our games consistently every weekend when we launch next February. There is no doubt that avid football fans want more and we’re excited to get going in 2020.”

There’s a key line in there, that can be interpreted as a compliment to the AAF: “There is no doubt that football fans want more and we’re excited to get going in 2020.” The AAF showed there can be a market for an alternative football league. Will any league be able to make it work or will they all just suffer the same fate.

XFL names Jordan Schlachter to lead sales and Derek Throneburg to lead Team Business Operations

XFL names Jordan Schlachter to lead sales and Derek Throneburg to lead Team Business Operations

Stamford, Conn., April 1, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Jordan Schlachter, most recently Chief Marketing Officer of the National Basketball Players Association and President of its marketing and revenue arm, THINK 450, has been named Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer. Also, Derek Throneburg, most recently Vice President of Customer Insight and Engagement for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, joins the league as Senior Vice President of Team Business Operations.

Schlachter will be responsible for building the XFL’s sponsorship and corporate partnership business and overseeing the new league’s advertising, marketing, communications, and consumer product initiatives.

Throneburg will work directly with each of the XFL’s eight team presidents to help engage with fans and the community, sell tickets, build local promotional initiatives, and develop the game day experience.

Both Schlachter and Throneburg will report to Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer.

“Jordan and Derek are proven leaders who bring the energy and spirit we need to successfully launch and then grow,” said Pollack. “Neither is afraid to experiment or challenge traditional thinking and Vince McMahon and I welcome them warmly to the XFL family.”

Schlachter became the NBPA’s first CMO in 2015 and helped create its THINK 450 unit, becoming its first President in 2017. From 2012 to 2014, he served as Executive Vice President for The Marketing Arm and before that worked with iHeartMedia as Vice President for Integrated Media and Marketing. Earlier, he worked as Managing Director and Head of New Business Development and Athlete Marketing for the United States Olympic Committee; Vice President, Marketing for the New York Knicks; and Vice President, Marketing, Content Sales and New Media for MTV Networks. Schlachter’s professional career began at the National Basketball Association and NBA Properties.

Schlachter holds a bachelor’s degree in American History from Harvard University and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

As Vice President of Customer Insight and Engagement for Pacers Sports & Entertainment — whose properties include the NBA Indiana Pacers, WNBA Indiana Fever, NBA G-League Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and Pacers Gaming of the NBA2K League — Throneburg led digital and social media, customer retention, and fan journey strategy. He joined Pacers Sports & Entertainment in

2012 as Vice President, Ticket Sales Strategy, and held two other vice president-level positions before assuming his most recent role in 2018. At different points, Throneburg managed ticket sales, customer retention, marketing, advertising, digital, social media, analytics, and marketing technology.

Before joining Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Throneburg spent ten years in various ticket sales and management roles with MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals, beginning as a direct sales representative in 2002 and advancing to Director, Ticket Development.

Throneburg graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Illinois, where he also played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. He sits on the advisory board of the Illinois Sports Business Conference and is a member of Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Customer Advisory Board.

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.

Media Contact: Stephanie Rudnick – XFL
Stephanie.Rudnick@xfl.com media@xfl.com