Is the XFL really going to happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gambling in and on the XFL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The challenges in improving the quality of play in the XFL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vince McMahon’s United Football League

“Vince McMahon announces XFL return in 2020.” It’s almost a year now since the big announcement made by Vince McMahon. The headline came very close to being much different.

“Vince McMahon returns to football with The United Football League.” This was almost the announcement made on January 25th of this year.

In 2017, Vince McMahon through his business holdings filed for the trademarks of The United Football League and the UrFL. This was months before VKM enterprises became Alpha Entertainment.

Since the spring of 2001, McMahon had not given up on a starting a football league again, but this time it would be under a new brand and a new vision. A stark contrast from the vision he had nearly two decades ago. The old XFL was dead and buried.

Can you really blame Vince McMahon for having second thoughts about reviving the XFL brand?

No league in the history of sports has the ridicule attached to it that the XFL does. The league where the X means nothing. The brand name itself is notorious but for all the wrong reasons. It’s a punch line, a big joke and is thought of as one of the biggest failures in the history of sports and television. The mainstream sports media and fans saw it as a joke back in 2001, and still to this day. One need not look too far to see the negativity attached to any news or commentary involving the XFL.

In a society where there are created narratives and where perception is the absolute reality. It’s very difficult to change or shake the negative perception that the XFL has attached to it. The league is paying for some of the sins of their past. The past is prologue. We can’t forget the lessons of it.

The biggest hurdle that the XFL is attempting to overcome is the negative stigma attached to it. For all the ardent supporters who think so fondly of the league, there are twice as many people who see the league and it’s attempt at a return as a joke. The XFL to them was everything that was wrong with society and sports. To them, it was trashy, classless, and designed to attract the lowest forms of society.

For all the negatives attached to the original XFL. There were more positives than the naysayers care to understand or even admit. Overlooking the fact that it extended football players and coaches careers, and created careers for future coaches/executives. The league was fan friendly, interactive, and innovative on the field and off. The league itself was way ahead of its time in engaging the fan and bringing them closer to the action than they have ever been.

Vince McMahon getting Oliver Luck to spearhead the new XFL and to follow his vision may have been McMahon’s best hire ever. For a league that is going to be in an uphill battle for credibility. Oliver Luck’s experience and success as an administrator, and in start-up leagues is an extremely valuable asset. The question asked by some naysayers when finding out that Luck is the CEO of the league is usually “Why is someone like him involved with this?”… Luck is respected in many circles and seeing his name attached to The XFL puzzles people. Oliver Luck himself had a negative viewpoint on the original XFL. Part of Oliver’s job is selling the public that The XFL needs to be taken seriously and that it’s going to be a league to be respected.

Everyone associated with the current XFL is going to be fighting the negative perception attached to the league. XFL Director of Player Personnel Eric Galko has even reached out to social media to ask people to have an open mind when it comes to the league. Galko is a respected figure in football circles as the head of Optimum Scouting. He is the director of scouting for YourCallFootball and The Dream Bowl. Galko’s job with the XFL extends beyond just providing teams with scouting reports on thousands of potential players. He is in a position where he has to sell agents and players that The XFL is a viable option. No such sell job needed with the CFL or even the AAF.

The prominent figures of the XFL are all in a position where they are not only selling the league to the public but also to the football community. That means getting players and coaches to buy into the league. It will not be an easy task despite the large amount of money that Vince McMahon is investing on his own.

Announcing prominent cities and stadiums as the league’s homes is not enough. A TV rights package will aid the league in being seen as a reality but it’s going to take a lot of convincing from Oliver Luck and his team, to get football players and coaches to buy in. Convincing them that The XFL is real and that it’s really going to happen and that the league is going to be a world class operation. This will be the difference in having quality play and not having it. If you just have to settle, for whomever will take a chance to be in your league rather than getting the best possible players and coaches under the circumstances.

The truth is that even if Vince McMahon had launched the new UFL this past January. It would have always been associated with and attached to The XFL name anyway. There’s no getting around that. That’s probably why McMahon decided to bring back the XFL name. There’s equity in the brand itself, even if the naysayers will not be treating the league with any type of equity. The XFL returns in name and spirit but the league is going to have a uniquely different resemblance and feel than the last time.


The cost of doing business in the XFL

Five-hundred million dollars. That’s the reported amount that Vince McMahon is investing into the league on his own. The funds are projected to be spent over the course of 3 years. It was initially reported that Vince McMahon would be spending 100 million dollars. When Oliver Luck was asked about this after he was initially hired, Luck said that this figure would only get them to the 20-yard line. The truth is that it takes at least 150 million dollars in expenses to start up and run an 8-team sports league. One of the reasons, Luck took the job was because of McMahon’s large capital investment. It’s something that Luck has cited in many interviews as to why the XFL has a chance to succeed in the long term.

A report was released recently that The AAF is hoping to raise 850 million dollars in funds over the course of their first 5 years. They are seeking investors. That’s a figure that they will need to reach if they hope to continue to have the league running and existing, because expenses in a league are very costly. When you don’t have reliable deep pocketed owners to fund each team. The league itself has to foot the bill for everything. That means everything from insurance, to travel expenses, to broadcast expenses, player and coach salaries, employee salaries, venue rent, technology costs, equipment, amenities, etc, etc, etc.

The pro football streets are filled with the corpses of past leagues who ran out of money. The USFL expanded way too soon. They had owners that were in over their heads and they didn’t have funds to pay their own players, or even feed them or provide them with equipment. They ran out of money and sued the NFL. They won a dollar and closed up shop. 

The NFL ran 15 seasons of their own spring pro football league. The World League stopped operations, was brought back, and became NFL Europe before being laid to rest in it’s final resting place as NFL Europa in 2007. The NFL lost 30 million per season trying to fund their very own developmental league. The NFL kept costs down and still lost roughly 450 million dollars. The NFL had revenue streams set up for their league but the expenses out weighed the profits earned. If they weren’t so smart, they would have probably lost more. 

The United Football League had the funds to start up a league but not enough to make it last. Billionaire William Hambrecht was the sole investor in the league. He got that league running with his own money. They started small with only a handful of teams. They even shelled out some money to pay for some name veteran football players and coaches. The league made several mistakes along the way. Playing in the fall on weekdays was one of them, the product itself was bland in presentation and the branding was poor. However, what ultimately killed The UFL was too much money going in, none coming back. There was no TV contract to help fund the league. No profits to speak of. They had to contract teams, relocate them and by the end. They couldn’t even pay their own players and coaches and had to cease operations. They are still being sued for money that they owe. 

Does it really cost that much to run a league? The answer is a resounding YES. Let’s breakdown what the costs will be and are for the XFL. 

The first major investment that The XFL made was getting sports risk insurance. These steps were taken before Vince McMahon made his relaunch announcement of the XFL. Without it, there would be no league. There are going to be over 400 football players employed with the XFL. In order to run a sports league, you need to have player insurance and invest in risk management and coverage. Vince McMahon needed to line this up before bringing back the XFL. The league has insurance deals with two of the biggest insurance-based companies in the country with The Berkley Group and The Fairly Group. Both groups work with all the top sports leagues and teams. This is a costly expenditure but an absolute necessity. No actual financial figures are available but this cost can be in the neighborhood of tens of millions of dollars. 

Let’s crunch some numbers;

XFL Player salaries have been revealed to the public. They are going to have 4 tiers of player salary. On a seasonal basis, the top tier players will be paid 250 to 300k per season. That may very well just be 8 quarterbacks. 1 for each team. Not counting win bonuses, which are returning to the league. The low-end figure of 250k would have the league’s quarterbacks totaling 2 million dollars for season 1. 

The lowest tier for players is expected to be 50 to 60k per season. Probably kicking specialists, long snappers and practice squad players that will be in that tier. The middle ground will be in the range of 75k to 100k per season. The second tier is expected to be in the 150 to 175k range. So to simplify all these numbers. Let’s assume that the average XFL player salary is 75k. The rosters themselves are supposed to be 45 players plus a 7-man practice squad. A 75k average would bring us to a team total salary cap of roughly 4 million per team. 

8 teams and that means that the league will have to shell out 32 million dollars to their players in year one. 

As reported, the head coaches are going to be paid roughly 500k per season. 8 head coaches and that brings that expenses to 4 million. XFL coaching staffs will not be as large as an NFL staff but there should be at least 10 assistants per team. From the coordinators to the positional coaches. Let’s assume that the average pay for assistant coaches is 200k. Counting the head coach’s salary. Each team staff would end up costing 2.5 million per team. Average that out over 8 teams and the cost of the league’s coaching staff expenses is 20 million.

So the combination of the player and coaching salaries for the 2020 season is 52 million dollars. That’s a conservative figure. 8 teams, 32 million for the players and 20 million for the coaching staffs. 

Figuring out team/league employees like trainers, presidents, office staff, marketing, equipment, pr, ticket sales, nutritionists and other employee salaries is a difficult thing to project. The team presidents themselves will make the same or more than the actual head coach. It’s also not taking into account XFL employees like the referees and the salaries of XFL employees like Oliver Luck, Doug Whaley, Sam Schwartzstein, the entire legal staff, etc.

Details were recently released of the agreement that The XFL made with St. Louis to rent out their dome for the upcoming 2020 season. The XFL paid 250,000 down. They then agreed to pay 100,000 per game. That’s 750,000 to rent the venue. The league will receive 100 percent of the ticket sales, minus taxes. However, the city will receive 100 percent of all revenue from concession and catering sales. This goes to show you how costly it can be just to rent these venues out. It’s safe to state that every XFL city didn’t get this sweet of a deal but they are probably all in this neighborhood. Renting world class venues are an expensive expenditure for sports teams/leagues. 

Probably the biggest expense the league will have to make in order to stand out from the crowd is their broadcast expenses. It costs Vince McMahon’s parent company the WWE hundreds of thousands of dollars to run two weekly live broadcasts each week. The XFL was innovative in this field almost 2 decades ago and figures to try and change the game yet again. Sure, the league will have broadcast partners to aid with this but The XFL is going to be implementing a lot of new technology. 4 games are going to be broadcast each week. It’s going to cost the league a lot to air and produce these games. Over the course of a 12-week season, it ends up being 43 games counting the 3 playoff games. It’s hard to put a real figure on what the overall cost will be to produce these games but even if you are on the frugal end, you end up spending millions of dollars over the course of a full season. There’s also travel expenses for all the teams and employees for these games. 

The cost of doing business for year one of The XFL is probably going to be in that 100-150 million-dollar range. This is without a single cent being earned. How does a league see a return on their investment?  Well they probably won’t in year one. They just need to see enough of a return to survive for year 2. 

As far as attendance goes. If the league’s conservative projection of a 20,000 average holds true. 43 games and that would bring the attendance total to 860,000. If the average ticket price is 35 dollars. The return on that would be a little over 30 million dollars. A decent figure but not enough to cover for all the expenses. 

The whole key to surviving and seeing a return on the yearly expenses is going to ultimately be the league’s tv rights package. It’s the bank. It’s where all the money is. Without it, the league dies again…. Quite frankly, it’s the reason that the XFL went after 8 of the top 20 TV markets. There’s more money to be made on the TV side with their current markets than there would have been in smaller markets like Salt Lake for example. 

What will The XFL rights deal look like and what could it be? This is hard to project but we can go through some figures. You can’t compare a league like The XFL to established properties like NASCAR, the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB. It’s very different. It’s hard as a start-up league to command top dollar. The closest leagues, you can compare The XFL to in terms of potential viewership is the WNBA and MLS. It’s debatable that The XFL can get similar TV deals but we are going to find out soon enough. Here’s an idea of what similar leagues tv deals look like. 

* ESPN and Fox pay 75 million per year to MLS. The national broadcasts for MLS average about 500 thousand viewers. With the exception of games against Mexico, which usually exceed 2 million. 

* ESPN pays The WNBA 12 million per year. This league averages about 200 to 250 thousand viewers per game during the playoffs.

Will a network be willing to make a long term tv deal with The XFL? Something tells me that networks will not extend past 3 years. The deal might end up being a prove it type deal. If The XFL can get closer to the MLS deal than the WNBA deal, than they are really in business. They need to be in that 20 million plus range. Landing a deal with multiple broadcasters could help. They could plant the seed to recoup money down the road. The XFL could get more out of their tv deal by leveraging streaming. They can then use the tv exposure to make more money on advertising and all other potential revenue streams for the league. It’s the only way a league can survive. 

All start-up leagues lose money. That financial bear starts chasing everyone. You don’t have to be faster than the bear. You just have to be faster than the guy that the bear is chasing.

The XFL’s Xclamation Point On Saturday

The football experts predicted that LA would make it to the championship. San Fran wasn’t expected to be there.

(19 April 2001) — It’s been a wild season for the XFL. The misunderstood league has had a lot of ups and downs in it’s first year. No sports league has ever recieved more scrutiny then the XFL. The league is trying to carve out a niche for itself in a sporting world that is not willing to accept it. Saturday Night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the LA Xtreme are pumped up to claim one million dollars and the XFL’s very first championship. They face the league’s most popular team and their California rival, the San Fransisco Demons. The football experts predicted that LA would make it to the championship. San Fran wasn’t expected to be there.

There are so many storylines developing for this game. The playoffs were a mild success for the league this past weekend. The ratings were up on both NBC and UPN. The NBC telecast went up 20 percent and the UPN game on Easter sunday went up 5 percent. With all that being stated, it appears that the Million Dollar Game will be the XFL’s final broadcast on NBC, at least in primetime. NBC, part owner of the league, has a iron-clad contract with the XFL for 2 seasons. If NBC were to part ways with the league, they would have to pay a penalty somewhere in the range of 10 to 30 million dollars. That sum would cover their end of the bargain for the second season of the XFL. Unless NBC moves the game to a better timeslot or to one of it’s cable partners. This is it, Saturday Night is most likely, the XFL’s final broadcast on NBC. They wanted the XFL to save saturday nights and to help replace their NFL loss. It didn’t work. The expectation level was too high for a brand new sports league.

So here we are, On NBC, Saturday Night at 8pm eastern, 5pm pacific, 1 million dollars is up for grabs and the future of these players pro careers is also on the line. The winner walks away with the XFL’s very first championship and 1 million dollars, the loser gets absolutely nothing. The pressure level will reach epic proportions on saturday night. The LA Xtreme and Demons have met twice this year. At Pac Bell Park in Week One, the Demons beat LA in dramatic fashion with a game winning field goal, in what was perhaps one of the XFL’s best games this season. In week 10, LA avenged that loss with a 24 to nothing shout out at home. Round 3 begins this saturday night with all the marbles up for grabs. The XFL’s offensive player of the year, Tommy Maddox has finally matured into a quality quarterback. The UCLA star left college at the tender age of 19 and was drafted by the Denver Broncos. He was brought in to eventually replace Denver Icon John Elway. Not a good situation for him. Maddox ended up as a backup for the Giants and Rams. He barely played and was jettisoned out of the league. The XFL and Al Luginbill provided Tommy Maddox with the opportunity to prove himself as a leader. Luginbill’s history with developing quarterbacks is very good. The evidence: Kurt Warner in NFL Europe. Maddox was not even projected as LA’s starter. The Xtreme selected Scott Milanovich with their first ever draft pick. Maddox outplayed him in camp and the rest is history. Tommy is now being courted by the NY Jets, the Chiefs and several other NFL teams. This may be his last ever XFL game. If he falls on his face, he may ruin his chance to get back to the NFL. Talk about pressure. The Xtreme is the league’s most talented team. No one would argue that point. The Xtreme wideouts are very talented and this will be their stage to prove themselves. Peyton Manning’s favorite target at Tennessee, Jeremaine Copeland has been the best pro wideout outside of the NFL the last two years. Copeland broke the pro record for receptions in a game last year with NFL Europe. This year, He has led the XFL in receiving. Copeland is joined by Kansas State Star, Darnell McDonald. McDonald averaged a touchdown a game this season thanks to his 6’4 220 pound frame. These two great young talents are joined by young NFL vets, Damon Gibson and Damon Dunn. In the backfield, Saladin McCollough is emerging as a great young back. He is backed up young NFL vets, Ken Oxendine and Rashan Sheehee. The offensive line is led by a monster in Jerry Crafts. The nearly 400 pound tackle has provided great protection this season along by his side has been good young pro prospects in Bobby Singh and Chris Brymer. The LA defense has NFL vets like Leomont Evans, Jamal Duff and Ron Carpenter but their strength is their youth. Al Luginbill attempts to add another championship this saturday to his mantle.

The most fascinating story by far in this game is Demons Head Coach, Jim Skipper. Skipper left a cushy job in the NFL as Giants assistant head coach/running backs coach to join the XFL. He left right before the 2000 NFL Season to pursue his dream. Skipper watched as his former team, the Giants got to a superbowl last year. Skipper left the Giants becuase he wanted so badly to become a head coach and in the NFL, the opportunity was not there for a great african american assistant like Jim Skipper. His dream was to be a head coach and he had waited long enough. He couldn’t wait anymore and now he has gotten the opportunity to live out his dream with the San Fransisco Demons. The XFL has been a dream league for hardcore football fans and for pro football players and coaches who want to showcase their skills. Skipper has done a fantastic job with his team. The Demons have been hampered by injuries to their roster all season long, but they battled through adversity to surprise the critics. The offense is led by California legends, Mike Pawlawski and Pat Barnes. Pawlawski has battled through serious neck injuries to get to where he is now. Barnes has been a quality NFL backup and he has proven himself as a starter in college and NFL Europe. It looks like Skipper has a tough decision to make at Quarterback if Pawlawski is healthy. Barnes was fantastic last week in Orlando and it will be hard to sit him for this game. The Demons offense has been riddled with injuries but they have found alot of good young talents for the future in Calvin Anderson and Brian Roberson. Their passing attack runs through CFL Star, Jimmy Cunningham. The 5’7″ star has always played bigger then his stature and he is one of the league’s most exciting players. The San Fran defense has also played well this year and they are led by NFL veterans like Craig Powell, Dwayne Harper and Toby Wright. Their young defensive stars like Eric England, Jermaine Miles and Wendell Davis have also played extremely well. The football coaching and playing talent is there on both teams and their dreams and hopes have come down to this big game.

This is it, the final showcase for the XFL in year one. The stakes are high for both teams on so many levels. In a way, the XFL has one final chance to show what the league is all about. This is their showcase game. It could be the final XFL game for many of these players. Some will move on to the NFL. Some will be let go next season. For the league as a whole, People have been told to expect a second season. NBC or not. It remains to be seen whether or not, the XFL will continue on. If they don’t have a second season. Then Saturday will be their last ever game. The Xclamation point of a wild year and the Xclamation point to yet another football league.

— Mike Mitchell – MMitchell@xflboard. com

The Sports World Hates The XFL

They hate us? or They Hate We?…… The Sporting World has made their agenda well known. They have two words for The XFL…. GO AWAY!…… Ever open your local newspaper or listen to your local sports radio? If you are looking for coverage of your favorite XFL team, Good luck! The only attention that the XFL gets is negative attention. The games are not taken seriously and the players and coaches are ignored. The sporting world has had a field day with the XFL’s ratings. Here are two numbers for you: 1.2 and 1.1. Those are The NHL’s ratings on ABC. I don’t see too many press releases on those stats. Anybody ever hear about NFL Europe ratings? Well I’ll tell ya, NFL Europe averaged a 0.3 on Fox Sports Net last season. Where’s the press on those figures? Have the XFL’s ratings been good? No, but are they comparable to other sports franchises? Yes.

Here are some more fascinating figures…Major League Soccer.. 0.2, Golf average 2.0 this year, NBA average on NBC, 2.3, Arena Football ratings average 0.2. Outside of Tiger Woods, Nascar, NCAA Finals and the NFL. Sports ratings are in a slow period. Let’s face it, the XFL has made alot of mistakes and their ratings have been a huge dissapointment. Last week, the XFL on NBC drew a 1.5. Only 1.4 million viewers watched the broadcast. The game only ranked 14th out of the top 20 rated sports programs on television. The UPN telecast ranked 19th. The XFL made alot of mistakes and hopefully as a brand new league they can fix their mistakes.

It’s a fact. History dictates that the only football that Americans want to see is the NFL and College. Even the mighty NFL failed miserably in trying to create a spring football league in the United States. Remember the World League of American Football. It lasted two years and is now known as NFL Europe. The CFL tried to expand to American teams. That didn’t work either. Everybody knows the story about the USFL. They tried to compete with The NFL head on and they lost big time. There have been many other spring leagues that have come and gone. The Arena League has survived as a small time league with unique features. Their attendance averages about 7,000 but it’s not pro football. It’s 50 yard ball in small arenas. The XFL, quite frankly, is trying to do something that has never been done. No 2nd US Pro Football League has made it since the AFL (now AFC) in the sixties. You can thank Joe Namath for that one.

The media points out the quality of the football. Eighty-three percent of the players in the XFL have spent time with NFL teams. Seventy-eight percent of the XFL’s players are 29 and younger. The XFL players are college all stars, NFL rookies and draft picks, NFL Veterans slashed because of the cap, CFL stars, Arena League stars and NFL Europe stars. All the media has to do is research the teams. I’m not making this stuff up. The information is available. Take a look at the rosters for yourself. The coaches have the same type of resumes. Recently a poll conducted with NFL employees shows that 89 percent of them support The XFL. The NFL of course, doesn’t want any of it’s employees coming out to make good remarks about the XFL. CBS president, Les Moonves has gone on record stating that he wants to use XFL features in next season’s NFL broadcasts.

For all the talk by the media about Vince McMahon’s entertainment shows, Dick Ebersol, NBC and the cheerleaders, the media has never bothered to focus on the players, coaches or the way that the XFL treats it’s fans and viewers. How many friendly stories have you seen about the XFL? Not many and if you have the positive publicity has come from NBC employees, XFL employees and the fans that have experienced the games. The last part of that group is all that really matters, the fans. This season, the XFL gave fans free trips to follow their teams. Some fans were even allowed on the field when a team won. A selected fan was granted a 2,500 dollar bonus. Now if that’s not catering to the fans. I don’t know what is. How often are sports fans treated like garbage. Hey if your favorite NFL team goes 7 and 9 get ready for a ticket increase. The same goes for other sports franchises. Not one media outlet mentioned how the XFL treated it’s fans. How many sports teams do you know that you would give you 2,500 dollars if your team won? When Chicago fans came out in a monsoon to watch their team the XFL gave those fans free tickets for the next home game. How cool is that! That’s why XFL games average 23,000 fans per game. Not bad for a startup league with bad or no publicity.

As a football fan, I want to see The XFL make it. I think it’s a shame that only 1,800 football players get to play pro ball in the states with The NFL. The XFL gives players and coaches a chance to showcase their skills in this great country. So many great young players get overlooked when they get out of college. Some have bad luck and get injured in the NFL and they never get another chance to play pro ball. The XFL gives players and coaches, the opportunity to prove themselves. Some players will benefit from having played in The XFL. They will move on to The NFL and get another chance to make it. The same goes for the coaches. Be on the lookout for Hitmen runningbacks coach, Joe Lombardi, and yes he’s related to the great Vince himself, the man, NFL’s very championship is named after, Vince Lombardi.

As for the fans, the XFL has been a fan friendly league that is willing to listen to us. They have screwed up in alot of instances but the effort has always been there. The rules and TV features have been great. There is still alot of room for improvement in certain areas. There will be alot of structural changes in the off-season. I don’t know if this league is going to make it. History tells me that it won’t, but I hope that it does. The league is a breath of fresh air and I hope that other sports leagues take notice and use some of the features and practices that Tthe XFL does.

I have a feeling that the sporting media will continue to ignore this league in the hopes that it will all go away. These same types made fun of the ABA’s 3 point shot. These same types ragged on the AFL’s teams, uniforms and rules. It’s not a good idea to walk around life with a closed mind, I remember a certain group of critics that told Christopher Columbus that he was a fool. They told him that the earth was flat and that his mission as pointless. Thank god, Good Ol’ Chris didn’t pay attention to the critics.

Mike Mitchell –

What Did You Expect From the XFL?

The XFL has become a punching bag.

Never in the history of American sports has a sporting league been more scrutinized by the media and the public. When The XFL debuted, The sports media expected a three-ring circus. The public expected the most radical sporting league in history. The expectations were high and low.

The question is did both parties get what they expected?

The sports media wants this league to fail. After watching the inaugural broadcast of The XFL on NBC, the media needed only to decide what angle they were going to take. They were going to rip it all along regardless of the outcome or performance.

If cheerleaders were featured heavily, the XFL would have been signified as smut. The cheerleaders in the XFL are no different then any other sports team cheerleaders. So the media couldn’t use that angle to bash the league. Even though some still use that as an excuse.

When the play was proven to be legitimate and not scripted like a movie, television or wrestling. The sports media needed another angle. They went with “this is not the NFL” and why should anyone watch.

Believe it or not, the media has a huge role in painting the public’s perception. Not to say that the public can’t think for itself but the media has control to spin a story and make anyone look good or bad – whatever they want.

In this society, perception becomes reality. If the XFL is perceived by the media to be a league full of semi-pro football failures. Then the public will buy that line. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just look at the backgrounds of all the players in the league. If the media were to do their research, then they’d see the truth, but rest assured they wouldn’t mention it. Instead, The public is fed their agenda motivated garbage.

The public expected the XFL to be something different then any sports league that they have ever seen. Instead, what they got really was football with alot of entertainment features.

The entertainment fans wanted to get what they get out of the WWF. The WWF is kind of an entertainment hybrid. It’s a comic book, it’s cartoonish, it’s a live action, live theatre soap opera within sports setting. When one watches the WWF, they get athleticism, comedy, action, drama, violence and sexuality. WWF fans love the company because it’s a fast paced fantasy world that’s over the top but has the strong human elements of love, hate, competition and betrayal. It’s really a variety show and not just staged wrestling matches.

The WWF fan wanted to see an extreme football league with the same “out of this world” features that the WWF has. The live WWF shows have a rock concert feel. The XFL does not give WWF fans what they want. The XFL has some sexuality, But the stories are not strong enough yet and in the end despite all the fan friendly features, It’s just a football game.

The sports fans want to see good football and many of them expected the XFL to be entirely different then the NFL. The NFL is the king of sports franchises to a sports fan. Nothing can touch it. The sports fan watched the XFL to see if they can get into a new league. The XFL in some cases has provided football from a fresh new perspective but sports fans simply can’t get into a league where they have no loyal ties to any of these players or teams. They expected harder hitting football. The XFL takes you closer and lets you hear all the hits but besides that it’s really not that much more violent then NFL hits. Many of the Sports fans are familiar with some of the players because of their strong college backgrounds but the majority of them are clueless to the origins of the XFL players.

Did the sports fan and public get what they expected? No. Too much football for some not enough football for others. The XFL isn’t the NFL to sports fans. The XFL isn’t the WWF to wrestling fans. It’s hard to please people with those expectation levels.

What is the XFL then?

The XFL is simply a sporting event in a fashion that you have never seen before. It’s an experiment that’s ahead of its time in broadcast sports. It’s a league where team is more important then individuals. A league where success is rewarded and failures are reported. It’s a league that is free and fresh. A league where sports meets reality TV and where sports meets entertainment. Has NBC and WWFE combined those elements perfectly yet? No. Will they successfully put those elements together? Time will tell.

What did you expect?