Is Vince McMahon trying to buy back the bankrupt XFL?

Vince McMahon may be having second thoughts about giving up his XFL dream, as there has been reports he has been making inquiries about re-instating lease agreements in some XFL cities.

According to a recent story in The Athletic, the XFL has reached out to at least the Seattle and St. Louis markets about reinstating lease agreements.

It is possible that McMahon may be trying to purchase the XFL, which he currently owns through Alpha Entertainment and the WWE, from the Delaware bankruptcy court that is working to deal off the league to the highest bidder.

It was also reported that XFL president Jeffrey Pollack is still employed by the league, and that XFL headquarters remain at least partially open.  However, McMahon would have to revive the league without its commissioner Oliver Luck, who has been fired and is the midst of an ugly wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

The XFL did refund all fans who had purchased tickets, which could be seen as a goodwill gesture to fans who may be asked to come back to league once pandemic concerns are alleviated.

If McMahon is indeed interested in reviving the XFL, and succeeds in doing so through a bankruptcy purchase, it may be deemed as one of the most incredible sports business moves in recent history.

Due to Coronavirus, Sunday’s Seattle Dragons home game will be played without fans

Seattle, WA – Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties in an effort to try to contain the Coronavirus outbreak.

Inslee said it is “very likely” the ban could be extend beyond March and could be expanded in the days to come.

“The ban covers gatherings for social, recreational, spiritual and other matters,” Inslee said.

Shortly afterward, the XFL announced that Sunday’s Seattle Dragons, LA Wildcats game would go ahead, but would  be played in front of an empty stadium.

The Seattle Dragons will be offering refunds to single game ticket holders. All Dragons Season Ticket Members will be offered refunds or credit toward a Dragons’ game during the 2021 XFL season.

XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck fully expects a “Year 2”

Oliver Luck
XFL Commissioned Oliver Luck (Credit: XFL.com)

Oliver Luck spoke at the NFL agent’s seminar at the NFL Combine. Aside from revealing he fully expects the XFL to continue on to “Year 2,” something that comes as no surprise to most people, he also revealed details of what to expect leading up to the next XFL season:

  • Luck is fully expecting the XFL to continue in year 2.
  • The league will use invite only camps and a draft similar o Year 1.
  • 200 current XFL players were on an NFL roster in 2019.
  • Teams will retain rights to players. This implies that if a player goes to another league after the XFL season, and then returns to the XFL, their rights will still be tied to the team they were with before.
  • One of the benefits of using a “Team 9” was to save money by not flying in players for workouts.
  • Luck emphasized that the XFL is a standalone league, and not a developmental league or competitor to the NFL.
  • Luck also emphasized no year removed eligibility as with the NFL, and that players can use XFL as a way to “bet on themselves.”

Original Tweet is below.

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(Updated) Johnny Manziel begs Oliver Luck to take him into the XFL… and then his Twitter account is removed

Late Friday evening, Johnny Manziel tweeted out “Oliver Luck. If ya wanna boost your ratings to another level just send me the contract tomorrow and we’re in there. Like I said YEARS ago… XFL2020 give the people what they want.”

A few hours after tweeting this plea, Manziel’s Twitter account appears to have been removed.

Either Manziel was having a rough night, or his account was hacked.

Manziel was a standout quarterback for Texas A&M, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2012. He was drafted 22nd overall in the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Brows where he played two seasons Manziel struggled both on and off the field. Later he played for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes, and most recently for the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football. He is currency a free agent.

At this point we do not have clarification of this tweet from Manziel or his agent.

Update: about twenty hours after he initially tweeted the request for Oliver Luck to send him an XFL contract, Manziel’s Twitter account was restored. However, the tweet to Oliver Luck was no longer present. Instead, Manziel tweeted two new messages saying he, “loves trollin,” and “have zero desire to play any football these days. Just love stirring up controversy.”

XFL Television Viewership is Strong

In the second week of the XFL, the television viewing numbers dropped but remain very respectable.

Here’s a ratings comparison of all broadcasts from Week 1 to Week 2 of the XFL:

Week 1
DC at Seattle, ABC: 3.3 million viewers
L.A. at Houston, FOX: 3.2 million viewers
Tampa Bay at New York, FOX: 3.4 million viewers
St. Louis at Dallas, ESPN: 2.495 million viewers

Week 2
New York at D.C., ABC: 2.1 million viewers
Tampa Bay at Seattle, Fox: 2.3 million viewers
Dallas at  Los Angeles, ABC: 2.397 million viewers
St. Louis at Houston, FS1:  1.359 million viewers

This is the Reader’s Digest version of the story. The detailed version is a little more interesting.

While the ratings dropped on FOX and FS1, the XFL still outdrew other sports on television in that time slot. On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Vipers versus Seattle Dragons game on FOX drew 2.324 million viewers and the St. Louis Battlehawks versus Houston Roughnecks game on Sunday (on FS1) drew 1.359 viewers. Notably, the FS1 game outdrew two college basketball games, as the Iowa-Minnesota and Utah-Oregon games did not draw even half the viewers as the XFL did.

In week one, the FOX Saturday game drew 3.2 million viewers, so from week to week, the viewership dropped by nearly one million. The Sunday game in week one was on regular FOX and drew 3.3 million viewers. This is a huge difference to week two but, the channels were different and FS1 has a smaller reach than FOX, a regular broadcast channel.

If there isn’t a significant drop in viewership in week three, the XFL will have settled on a good level of viewers in order to build their brand and move forward as a league.

Last year, the Alliance of American Football drew 2.9 million viewers for its first game, but saw ratings plummet afterward. Fortunately for the XFL, they have a much better television deal than the AAF.

After the first AAF game aired on CBS, the broadcasts switched to cable networks and streaming services such as TNT, NFL Network, CBS Sports Network and the B/R Live streaming service. On the other hand, the XFL will air mainly on broadcast television for its entire season.

The XFL always felt their game broadcasts had to at least be competitive in the time slots where they aired. So far, this is very true. There may be some concession made to this guideline when sports fans inevitably focus on March Madness next month. The XFL already expects to lose viewers to the very popular annual college basketball tournament.

Suddenly the “Belles of the Ball” the St. Louis BattleHawks are turning them away

Jordan Ta'amu
Jordan Ta’amu and the BattleHawks are eyeing down their home opener in Week 3. (Credit XFL.com)

ST. LOUIS – The BattleHawks are living the high life in the city of St. Louis, and popularity of the team seems to have risen to a level that is too much to handle.

The team’s first home game to be played in The Dome is now a sellout at 28,000 fans. The sellout is for the entire lower bowl, and BattleHawks president Kurt Hunzeker says they aren’t going to open the upper bowl.

In essence, the BattleHawks will turn away paying fans, even though there are perfectly good seats available. However, the BattleHawks front office feels there are good reasons, mainly logistical, but also aesthetics.

“The upper deck, logistical issues involved there. A lot of it is customer service, a lot of it is manpower, a lot from an aesthetic standpoint,” Hunzeker explained.  “We’re going to dim out the upstairs. People will see an intimate environment, which is what the XFL wanted. A great game experience and having 28,000 fans on top of the action.”

Last week, Seattle set the XFL 2020 attendance record with just over 29,000 fans in CenturyLink Field. Now, with St. Louis capping their attendance at 28,000, Seattle’s record is safe.

Other than missing a chance for a statistical win, you would think the BattleHawks front office must feel they are missing an opportunity to introduce additional St. Louis fans to  their special “fan friendly” game day experience.

Limiting media

In addition to limiting the amount of fans that can take in the opening game, the BattleHawks are also limiting the number of media representatives that are being credentialed for the game.

“We had our only St. Louis reporter denied credentials because we were told that the media demand was far greater than they could manage,” XFLBoard.com senior editor Mark Nelson said. “We understand the limitations they have, but this makes it hard for us to cultivate a good relationship with St. Louis. In fact, we have noticed all along that they seem to be too busy to deal with even the smallest request.”

Nelson also said that XFLBoard.com, which features a large number of player stories, is having trouble arranging interviews through the St. Louis team.

“Our requests are wholly unfulfilled,” Nelson said. “We simply stopped asking. This is mainly why you don’t see a lot of BattleHawks players on our podcast, or featured in stories on our pages. We can’t connect with them effectively.”

Apparently, the “Belle of the Ball” St. Louis BattleHawks has such a full dance card that they can’t make time for  everyone.

More missed opportunities.

XFL Trading Cards – “Topps Now”

Since the XFL has partnered with the trading card company Topps to produce their inaugural season card set, we await the set issue expected in early March.

However, that hasn’t stopped Topps from issuing special XFL cards in their “Topps Now” platform.

Launched in 2016, the Topps NOW platform offers print-to-order cards commemorating moments, milestones and other notable events in sports.

Each series of XFL “Topps Now“cards is only available for a short window, or even shorter if they are quickly sold out. The allure for collectors is these cards are “short prints” and could potentially increase in value.

New XFL “Topps Now” are issued every Monday. Be sure to check back at the start of the week to see the offerings.

There’s something new on the sidelines of the XFL DC Defender’s

Dragon Seats
Dragon Seats heated benches help improve safety, performance, and comfort for athletes in all weather conditions.

“Dragon Seats™”, the manufacturer and provider of patented heated and cooling sports benches to 19 NFL Member Clubs and 40 Division I college programs, announces its partnership with the DC Defenders of the XFL. During the inaugural 2020 XFL season, beginning Saturday, February 8th 2020, Dragon Seats™ will outfit the Defenders with eight of its proprietary heated benches with helmet warming and heated foot deck accessories for all five home DC Defenders games at Audi Field in Washington D.C over the 10 game season.

Come Saturday, the Defenders and the away sidelines will have 4 Dragon Seats benches (8 in total) that provide a slew of perks that a traditional sports bench can’t offer.

  • A heating system designed to warm the entire bench to keep player’s body temperatures up even in extreme weather conditions.
  • Heated foot decks providing a steady stream of hot air so that the player is warmed from both the back and front while seated.
  • “Hot Hats,” which are warming poles that players can rest their helmets on to keep the interior padding warm. Unlike a cold helmet, a warm helmet fits properly and can help protect players in freezing temperatures.
  • Ergonomically designed seating for additional comfort and support.

“We are thrilled to partner with the DC Defenders of the XFL to bring our patented heated bench technology to the DC Defenders and XFL athletes for their inaugural season. The excitement around Audi Field is incredible, and we can’t wait to get started with a new league. The XFL is putting player safety and performance at the forefront, and we’re proud to support the new XFL with our heated benches that will be on both the home and visiting sidelines at Audi Field,” says Franklin Floyd, chief operating officer at Dragon Seats™, based in New York City. “With a season that starts in February and continues into the cold winter months that can see freezing temperatures, we’re confident that our heated bench technology will make a big impact on player safety and performance.”

About Dragon Seats™:

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Bourne Creation Inc. dba “Dragon Seats™” started as the sideline bench provider for the Cleveland Browns in 2005 and now has a 15-year track record providing safety, performance and comfort to athletes across the NFL and NCAA and other leagues. The company’s patented heated and cooling bench technology has helped it become the #1 bench in sports. Dragon Seats™ can be found on the sidelines of 19 NFL Member Clubs, 40 NCAA Division I football programs, and most recently baseball dugouts, hospitality spaces and one XFL club. In total Dragon Seats™ provides over 400 benches in 75 locations across the United States at all levels of competition. To learn more click here: www.dragonseats.com.

XFL Reveals Team 9 Details

Team 9 head coach Bart Andrus
Team 9 head coach Bart Andrus

The XFL has established “Team 9,” a squad where the main eight XFL teams will draw their replacement players.

The league is touting Team 9 as being a benefit “of the rest of the eight-team league … and for 40 players still chasing their football dreams.”

Team 9 will be based in Arlington, Texas, and will practice at Globe Life Park, home of the Dallas Renegades. While Team 9 will share some resources with the Renegades, such as training and medical services, it will largely function as a separate entity.

Team 9 will be overseen by XFL director of scouting Eric Galko and coached by Bart Andrus. Andrus has coached in the NFL, CFL, NFL Europe, college and other spring leagues. He was an NFL offensive assistant in Tennessee and St. Louis, won an NFL Europe championship as head coach of Amsterdam in 2005, and was a CFL head coach with the Toronto Argonauts. Andrus also worked in NFL Europe with Luck, and thus is familiar with the “Team 9” concept.

“It was lifted directly from my experience with NFL Europe,” Luck said. “We literally called it ‘Team Dallas’ because it was in Dallas. The genesis of that was with teams in Europe, American players needed work permits. You couldn’t pick up a left tackle off the street in Scotland. We needed a group of guys who could practice and literally jump on a plane.”

The XFL Team 9 roster doesn’t include specialists, i.e., no kickers, punters, or long snappers.

The human performance company EXOS will also work with Team 9 daily to improve strength and conditioning in an effort to cut down on potential injuries.

The league also plans to utilize Team 9 to test new technology, including equipment, and measure other physiological trends.

Team 9 Operation

Eric Galko said, “Team 9 is not meant to be a waystation,  where teams can send down or stash players. The XFL goal is to build a Team 9 with the players that are familiar and accessible to teams — and prepared to play.”

For the first two weeks of the season, XFL teams are encouraged to pull from Team 9 to fill an open spot, but it’s not required. For example a team might be more comfortable signing a receiver cut in training camp who’s not on Team 9, and the league understands that perspective. Since all XFL teams should be familiar with Team 9 players by the second week of play, after Week 2 it will be a league requirement to utilize Team 9 players to plug an open roster spot.

As XFL teams dip into this resource, Team 9 will constantly get restocked to stay at 40 players. The league is also planning for the normal attrition that comes with a football season, as players get banged up and are limited in practice.

Interestingly, after Week 5, all Team 9 players will be absorbed by the eight teams allowing rosters to increase from 52 to 57 players. (Game day active rosters will remain at 46 players.) Then, Team 9 will be reloaded with approximately 36 players to finish out the season.

Team 9 practices will begin Feb. 3. Players will be available to XFL teams for private workouts every other Monday starting Feb. 10.

Current Team 9 Roster

QB Joe Callahan
QB CJ Collins
QB Garrett Fugate
QB Marcus McDade
RB Darnell Holland
RB Ray Lawry
WR Davon Grayson
WR TreyDonte Hill
WR Taivon Jacobs
WR Dalton Ponchillia
WR Andrew Verboys
WR Carl Whitley
TE Connor Davis
TE Pharoah McKever
OC Ryan Anderson
OG Korren Kirven
OG Terronne Prescod
OT Nick Callander
OT Gerhard de Beer
OT Brandon Haskin
OT Patrick Lawrence
OT Rod Taylor
DE Jesse Aniebonam
DE Martin Ifedi
DE Alex Jenkins
DT Daryle Banfield
DT Shane Bowman
DT Andrew Stelter
DT Trenton Thompson
LB Markus Jones
LB Darnell Leslie
DB Bryce Cheek
DB Reggie Cole
DB Marwin Evans
DB Tyree Holder
DB Josh Jenkins
DB Derrick Jones
DB Jermaine Ponder
DB Robenson Therezie

XFL Tampa Bay Vipers report on challenges of a shortened play clock

Credit XFL.com

By all reports, the Tampa Bay Vipers were making an extraordinary effort to prepare for the planned shortened play clock that will be ever present when the league kicks off next month.

By incorporating a “big red 25-second play clock” that was counting down during the team’s practice, players and coaches were able to become more accustomed to the shortened play clock, and the XFL’s fast-paced brand of football was tested.

Players are discovering they have to make an effort to keep pace and quickly prepare for the next play.

“We gotta make sure everybody’s aligned… that’s the biggest thing,” tight end Nick Truesdell said. “If somebody’s way down the field and they’ve got to run back, we gotta be aware of that because we’ve got a short amount of time.”

Truesdell also pointed out that the XFL’s innovative in-helmet coach-to-player communications will assist the offense to get ready for the next play.

“We’re not getting in the huddle, so we got to make sure we hear everything and get lined up quick,” he said.

The shortened time between plays is also effecting the coaches, as Vipers offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo pointed out.

“There’s no doubt that the play clock is a concern. You have to, as a playcaller, go through a number of different scenarios. Where the ball’s at, the down and distance, we’re in field goal range, and all those things have to be processed rather quickly. You have to be two or three steps ahead of the game.”

The shortened play clock is one of the most exciting changes the XFL has made for their upcoming season. We can’t wait to see how this effects the quality and pace of the game.

Source: XFL.com