Stamford, Conn., June 12, 2019 – The XFL today announced that it will again partner with The Spring League, an elite professional football development league, to scout talent, test potential rule adjustments, and experiment with potential in-game technologies it as prepares for kick-off in February 2020.
The Spring League (TSL) will take the field with the XFL this summer to conduct two four-day scouting events in Southern California, the first of which will take place June 17-20 at Mission Viejo High School. The second will run July 28-31 at a location to be announced soon.
These events provide players with opportunities to display their ability in front of XFL head coaches and their staffs, and other professional football scouts. At the same time, TSL coaches will work closely with the XFL football operations team to test on-field and rules adjustments the league has developed and may adopt when it launches next year.
“We’re in an important phase of our development and The Spring League gives us the perfect platform to continue our effort to reimagine the game,” said Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner & CEO. “We had a great experience and learned so much at The Spring League in April, and feel confident that after these next two sessions we’ll have identified a few XFL-caliber players and be closer to finalizing our rules and gameplay.”
“We are excited to be working with the XFL again and further demonstrate our value as both a platform for player development and incubator for rules testing,” said Brian Woods, CEO of The Spring League. “Our summer events will provide additional opportunities for players to be scouted by XFL coaches and scouts in advance of their 2020 launch.”
ABOUT THE XFL The XFL will reimagine football for the 21st century when it kicks off the weekend of February 8-9, 2020, committed to delivering a brisk, fast-paced game, with a fan-centric, innovative, and affordable gameday experience. The inaugural season will launch with teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C. Each team will compete with a 45-man active roster over a 10-week regular season with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game. Every XFL game – every week – will be nationally televised and easy-to-find for fans coast-to-coast. Starting in February 2020, the XFL will air weekly on ABC and FOX, with games also on ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2. Vince McMahon, XFL Founder and Chairman, is personally funding the new league, and building the XFL with the same commitment and resolve that he has demonstrated building WWE into a global media and sports entertainment powerhouse. For more information, visit XFL.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
ABOUT THE SPRING LEAGUE The Spring League is an elite development league and scouting event for professional football talent. All teams in The Spring League utilize one central location, for both practices and games, allowing NFL scouts, GM’s, and player personnel directors with an opportunity to evaluate players in one setting. Nearly all of the players who participate in The Spring League have spent time on an NFL active, practice, or pre-season roster. Since 2017, over 100 players have been either signed or invited to a camp by an NFL or CFL team. For more information, please visit: https://www.thespringleague.com/.
Media Contact: Stephanie Rudnick – XFL Stephanie.email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
The drive starts for a young quarterback, who is trying to score big. The sweltering heat in Texas is upon him. His blood is boiling, nerves are jumping and his heart is racing at an all-time high. He’s been waiting for this opportunity his whole life. This might be his last chance to finally prove himself…. then all of a sudden, the drive comes to an abrupt halt. His car breaks down on his way to TDECU Stadium in Houston.
With time running out on the clock, the young quarterback is forced to call an audible. His car engine has overheated. It’s time to abandon the game plan, call roadside assistance, and immediately head to the stadium on foot. He makes it just in time to check in, and hit the field to showcase his ability.
This is the story of Grambling State Quarterback De’Vante Kincade, the former 4-star recruit out of Skyline High School in Dallas. De’Vante was invited to the XFL’s first showcase in Dallas on Friday. With six quarterbacks at the showcase, Kincade was told that the Showcase was full, and was asked to return to another Showcase, taking place the next day in Houston.
From day one, it’s been that kind of journey for De’Vante Kincade. He has had so many twists and turns, that it’s no surprise his car would break down on the way to this moment. As a 4-star recruit, Kincade was recruited heavily by several schools coming out of High School. One of the coaches that recruited him was current XFL Houston Head Coach June Jones. Kincade was offered a scholarship by Jones and SMU. De’Vante and June would cross paths one more time before Kincade ended up throwing passes at TDECU on Saturday morning. More on that in a bit… Out of high school, De’Vante would end up signing with Ole Miss. He never got the opportunity to lead that program. He ended up mostly on the sidelines for three years. Kincade then transferred to Grambling State, where he ended up being the two-time Offensive Player of the year in the SWAC. In two seasons as a starting quarterback, Kincade led the Tigers to a 22-2 record, including a 16-0 mark in conference play. Kincade won two straight SWAC championships, and won a national championship. De’Vante amassed 5,297 yards through the air with 54 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
After the 2017 Collegiate season ended, Kincade hoped that his last two years would earn him a shot at being a pro quarterback. He was anxious to prove himself as a quarterback, and didn’t want to switch positions. Measuring in at only 5’11 and 198 pounds. Kincade ended up not being selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He did however, receive a post draft workout with his hometown Dallas Cowboys, but again nothing panned out. Looking for an opportunity and anywhere to prove himself, Kincade signed with the Maine Mammoths of the National Arena League in May of last year. De’Vante ended up not playing a single game for them. Two months later, up north in Canada, less than a week after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats traded Johnny Manziel to the Montreal Alouettes. Kincade was brought in to work out for then Hamilton Head Coach June Jones. Kincade ended up impressing enough to sign a contract with the Tiger-Cats. He would end up on the Ticats practice squad for the 2018 season. There were quality QB’s ahead of him that had already earned their spots on the roster, like former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli, who has become a star in Canada. There wasn’t an opportunity for De’Vante to get on the field. This past May, Kincade was released by Hamilton. Once again, being sent back to square one. The XFL came calling with an invite. One in which, he almost missed out on twice.
Kincade and the other 799 players that participate in the XFL’s Summer Showcases, are an example of why everyone who loves football, should be rooting for the XFL to succeed. There is no guarantee that De’Vante earns himself a contract, but there’s no question that his heart and drive are good enough for one.
The XFL opened up their doors officially this past week to football players, with two Showcases taking place in the heart of Dallas and Houston. The league began its first phase of working out and potentially signing players. All the players that participated in these showcase workouts have unique stories.
There’s former NFL Running Back Christine Michael, a 5-star recruit, former Walter Payton award winner coming out of high school and then bounced around the NFL, making only nine starts, and only carried the ball 254 times in the pros for 1,080 yards and seven touchdowns. There’s 25 year old rookie, the undrafted BYU Quarterback Tanner Mangum. A 4-star recruit who shined when given the chance, but who ultimately ended up splitting time at QB with the likes of, Saints jack of all trades Taysom Hill. There’s also former Air Force Wide Receiver Jalen Rowell. The 6’3 220 pound wideout led the nation in yards per catch. On his way to being drafted into the NFL, his draft eligibility was denied, and Rowell had to finish two years of service before being able to play pro football now. There are also former high end NFL draft picks like Kony Ealy. There are so many unique stories and players that took part, and that will take part in the XFL’s Showcases.
Making an NFL roster is extremely difficult. As documented here in the past, a recent NCAA study showed that only 1.6 percent of all college football players make the NFL. There are thousands of draft eligible players every year that do not get to continue on their pro careers in the states. A simplified look at an NFL roster composition can be seen like this: Every team has 22 starters, 11 on offense and 11 on defense. If you factor in 22 backups to those starters. That brings you to 44 players. You then add three starting specialists per team, a kicker, punter and a long snapper. The total is now 47. That leaves only six spots remaining. All NFL teams carry more than just two running backs, usually four or five. All NFL teams carry more than just four receivers, it can be as many as seven or even eight. This extends to the defensive side as well. Most teams carry more than ten defensive backs. So teams mix and match, doing a little give and take at certain positions to get to their final 53. In what has become a growing roster trend in the NFL, some teams will carry only two quarterbacks, just so that they can fill out their rosters. Sometimes a player, who doesn’t have front line starter ability, will make a roster based on the roles that they fill on special teams. This will come at the expense of players who can be starters, but that don’t fill specific roles as backups or on special teams. A fifth WR has to be able to either bring value as a returner or on special teams coverage, or he will not make the team. There’s no reason to even dress the player if he doesn’t bring game day value. Veterans lose jobs every year in the NFL, at the rate of a few hundred every year. Why? It’s simple. 300 to 400 new rookies make the league every year, and take their spots. The average NFL career is four years. Two reasons for that, one is injuries, the other is that a good number of NFL players don’t see their second or third contracts. Players are constantly being replaced. They come into the league at 21 or 22 years old and by the time, they are in their late 20’s. They are out. The rosters are constantly turning over every year. A lot of quality college players are not getting into the league, and a lot of quality players that did make it into the league, don’t end up lasting long.
The XFL’s goal, as stated by its Director of Player Personnel Eric Galko, is to sign players they feel are NFL players that, for varying circumstances, are not in the league. Players that should be playing in the NFL, or are NFL caliber players. A lofty goal perhaps, but the right mindset to have when trying to put together a pro football league. There are valid arguments for or against a second pro football league existing. Usually the most valid points against one existing like the XFL, is the financial viability of it. Whether or not, the quality of it can get the backing of the viewing public. However, those who are opposed to it, because they see a second league as a “place for rejects”, are out of touch with the realities of how many quality football players are out there. Even if a narrow minded football fan were to dismiss the thousands of draft eligible college football players every year that don’t make the NFL, and just stick with Division 1 football. There are close to a thousand draft eligible players from that group alone every year. The percentage of those elite college players from elite college programs that make the NFL every year is very small. Only 254 players get drafted every year. Then there’s the thousands who are undrafted. For those who question the quality of the undrafted. Take a good long look at NFL rosters. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there are more undrafted players in the NFL right now than there are first and second-rounders combined. That means there is value in the players that are overlooked. The real argument against a spring football league, is really, Can it survive and thrive? In my mind, there’s no doubt that it should exist. The players and the football ecosystem needs it.
The testing at the Summer Showcase is meant to gather feedback from players and coaches.
The balls being tested are brown, with white laces, and all feature a stylized purple and white “X” on each end. The difference between the balls seem to be the texture of the ball. There is no indication as to the manufacturer of the test balls.
The new ball design was originally shown in a Twitter post and then discussed in the XFLBoard forums.
The idea of the XFL having a markedly unique football hearkens back to 2001, and the original black and red XFL ball. That ball was loved by fans, and hated by detractors to the league, even going so far as claiming the ball was hard to handle and throw. In fact, former XFL Quarterback and MVP Tommy Maddox has gone on record to say the original XFL ball was “very hard to grip and throw but they made adjustments to it and it became very easy to throw.”
Clearly, we can see how the 2020 version of the XFL is actively testing what may become their signature ball. Let’s hope they get it right, and the 2020 ball is just as loved as the 2001 version.
At the first it was very hard to grip and throw but they made adjustments to it and it became very easy to throw.
Stamford, Conn., June 3, 2019 – The XFL announced today that Josh Bullock, former Vice President of Corporate Partnerships at the Tampa Bay Rays, has been named President of the XFL football team in Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay XFL team will take the field in February 2020 for its inaugural season and will play its home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Marc Trestman is the team’s head coach and general manager.
Bullock, who most recently served as the Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Director of Development at the University of South Florida, 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 McMahon, Oliver Luck and I are thrilled that Josh has joined the XFL as our president in Tampa Bay,” said Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer. “His experience with the Rays and USF, and his incredible network across the region, will help set us up for success on and off the field, on game day, and in the community every day.”
“I am excited to join the XFL and play a role in bringing more great football to Tampa Bay,” said Bullock. “The opportunity to help start a new football franchise was something I couldn’t pass up. I look forward to working alongside Coach Trestman and his staff to build-out our team, and to engage with our community, grow our fan base and create an experience that’s truly authentic to Tampa Bay and the region.”
Bullock joined USF Athletics in March 2018 as Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Development after more than seven years with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he served as Vice President, Corporate Partnerships. Before arriving in Tampa, Bullock served as general manager for ISP Sports (now IMG College) at UCF (2007-2010), and as associate general manager for ISP Sports at Virginia Tech (2004-2007).
In 2012, Bullock completed coursework at Leadership Tampa, an intensive nine-month program sponsored by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce that introduces attendees to major facets of the greater Tampa community, and he served as the Chair for the Class of 2018.
Bullock is a University of Kentucky graduate, where he served as Athletic Relations Coordinator for Football (1997-2000). He lives in Westchase, Fla. with his wife Christie, daughter, Anna, and son, James.
Stamford, Conn., June 3, 2019 – The XFL has established a health advisory committee comprised initially of experts in neurology, mental health, and orthopedics to support the health and wellness of XFL players.
The founding members of the XFL’s health advisory committee are Dr. Julian Bailes; Dr. Larry Lemak; and Dr. Claudia Reardon, representing the fields of neurosurgery, orthopedics and mental health, respectively. Dr. Bailes will serve as Chief Medical Advisor.
The league also appointed Daniel Wright, most recently the Head Athletic Trainer for the Milwaukee Brewers, as Vice President of Health and Safety. Wright, a member of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association for more than 30 years, will work with the health advisory committee to prepare and maintain the XFL’s health, wellness and safety policies, procedures and protocols. Wright will also hire, supervise, and evaluate the team athletic trainers.
“The health and safety of our players is an important focus on our path to reimagine football and deliver a great product to fans when we kick off in February 2020,” said XFL Commissioner & CEO Oliver Luck. “Putting in place the right experts and medical professionals is key. Our health advisory committee will work closely with our football operations department to create protocols and build best practice guidelines that put player health and safety at the forefront of everything we do.”
Dr. Bailes is considered a leading authority in neurosurgery, traumatic brain injury and research, and neurological sports medicine. He is Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at NorthShore University HealthSystem and Co-Director of the Northshore Neurological Institute in Evanston, Il. Dr. Bailes served as team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 10 years, and the NCAA Division I for 15 years. He is a member of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee, NFLPA Mackey White Health and Safety Committee, and Chairman of the Pop Warner Football Medical Advisory Committee. He is a board-certified neurosurgeon, earned bachelor of science and doctor of medicine degrees from Louisiana State University, and received neurosurgery training at Northwestern University and the Barrow Neurological Institute.
Dr. Lemak is the Founder of Lemak Health, a center of excellence in orthopedics and primary care sports medicine. He serves on Pop Warner Football’s Medical Advisory Committee and the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Dr. Lemak founded the National Center for Sports Safety in 2001 and the Alabama Sports Foundation in 1996. He also served as Medical Director for Major League Soccer for 20 years, was a founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute, and was the Medical Director of NFL Europe League for more than 15 years. Dr. Lemak is a graduate of The University of Alabama Medical School and is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine and the Arthroscopy Association of North America.
Dr. Reardon is a Board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sports psychiatry and an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Department of Psychiatry. She clinically works as the consulting sports psychiatrist to the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department at UW-Madison’s University Health Services.
Dr. Reardon has served on the International Society for Sports Psychiatry Board of Directors since 2010, currently as its Secretary and Education Committee Chair. She also serves as the sole psychiatrist on the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. Dr. Reardon chairs a workgroup on Mental Illness in Elite Athletes for the International Olympic Committee. She has published and presented widely on many sports psychiatry related topics, and is Co-Editor of the book “Clinical Sports Psychiatry: An International Perspective.” She completed her undergraduate and medical school degrees as well as her psychiatry residency training, serving as Chief Resident, at the University of Wisconsin.
Wright has been an athletic trainer since 1985. He recently spent 18 seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, first as the Assistant Athletic Trainer and Conditioning Coordinator (2001-10), then as the Head Athletic Trainer (2011-18). In addition to the Brewers, Wright has held athletic training positions at either the minor or major league-level for the Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants. From 1995 to 2008, he was Co-Owner and President of FitLife Health Systems, Inc., a business that provided athletic training, injury rehabilitation, and performance, fitness and conditioning services. Wright earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education (1984) and Master of Science in Clinical Health and Sports Medicine (1987) from the University of Oregon.
Houston, TX., May 20, 2019 – The XFL today announced that June Jones, a former coach for the NFL’s Houston Oilers and USFL’s Houston Gamblers, and a former head coach in the NFL, CFL and at the major college level, has been named head coach and general manager of the XFL team in Houston.
The Houston team will play at TDECU Stadium when the league kicks off in February 2020. Brian Michael Cooper, who previously served as Senior Associate A.D. at Rice University and President of the NBA G-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers, was named President of the XFL football team in Houston last week.
“We’re extremely proud to add Coach Jones, a man with four decades in football, as an XFL head coach,” said XFL Commissioner & CEO, Oliver Luck. “June has coached the game in three different pro leagues, including the NFL, as well as major college and high school football. The experience he’s gained at every stop along the way will no doubt serve him well as he helps us reimagine the game and build our Houston team into something special.”
“I’ve spent a few years coaching in Houston, and having a chance to return to be a head coach in the XFL is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Jones. “I had a really great time coaching in the CFL, but this new fresh opportunity to build a team from the ground up is extremely rare in this game, and I’m looking forward to working with Brian Cooper and our coaches to give football fans in Houston a team that’s truly exciting to watch and worthy of their support.” “June Jones is one of the most accomplished and well-known football coaches, and it will be an honor to work side-by-side with him,” said Cooper. “I have no doubt that his love of the game and commitment to excellence on-field will dovetail perfectly with our effort to engage Houston sports fans in new and exciting ways.”
Jones joins Kevin Gilbride (New York), Pep Hamilton (Washington, D.C.), Jonathan Hayes (St. Louis), Winston Moss (Los Angeles), Bob Stoops (Dallas), Marc Trestman (Tampa Bay) and Jim Zorn (Seattle) as the XFL’s head coaches when the league kicks-off in February 2020.
Jones comes to the XFL after two seasons with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Hired as the team’s assistant head coach in 2017, he was elevated to interim head coach after an 0-8 start that year. The Tiger-Cats went 6-4 under Jones, and he was appointed head coach for 2018, and took the team to the second round of the playoffs. In December, he stepped down to become associate head coach and offensive coordinator, clearing the way for the promotion of his successor.
Jones is entering his 35th season as a football coach at the high school, college and professional levels. In addition to the Tiger-Cats, he has held head coaching positions at Southern Methodist University (2008-14), the University of Hawaii (1999-2007), and with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers (Interim – 1998) and Falcons (1994-96). While leading SMU, Jones was named Conference USA Coach of the Year by The Sporting News in 2009, and Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1999, 2006 and 2007 while the head coach at Hawaii. In his first season as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors, he led the team to a 9-4 record and a share of the WAC championship. Having finished the prior season 0-12, it was the most significant single-season turnaround in NCAA football history.
After three seasons as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator (1991-93), Jones was named head coach in 1994. Despite taking over one of the NFL’s worst teams, and having no first or second-round draft picks in his first two years, the Falcons made the playoffs.
In addition to his three seasons as an NFL assistant coach in Atlanta, Jones served as Detroit Lions’ quarterbacks and wide receivers coach (1989-90) and Houston Oilers’ quarterbacks coach (1987-88). During his 13 years as a coach at the professional level, he worked with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Brett Favre (1991), Warren Moon (1987-88) and Jim Kelly (1984).
Jones began his coaching career in 1983 as quarterbacks coach at Hawaii. After a season, he moved to the United States Football League as wide receivers coach of the Houston Gamblers (1984) and offensive coordinator of the Denver Gold (1985). In 1986, Jones was a co-offensive coordinator of the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders, joining the team after the USFL folded.
Before coaching, Jones played quarterback for the Falcons for five years (1977-81) and the Argonauts for one season (1982). A Portland, Oregon native, he signed with the Falcons as a free agent out of Portland State University after earning All-America honors, leading the nation in passing and total offense.
Last week the XFL revealed they would hold “Summer Showcase” tryout camps in XFL cities. We have now confirmed that these tryouts are by invitation only, and there will be approximately one-hundred players invited to each camp, where the coaches and league’s football operations staff will conduct an evaluation.
Potential players have been scouted by the league and are being invited through their agents. The invitation process began on May 13th, and agents are being instructed as to the details of the timing and documentation required.
The players invited are expected to be players who are currently Street Free Agents, players from the 2019 NFL Draft class, etc. Immediately following each showcase, the league will begin considering players to sign to XFL League Contracts.
The XFL will be gathering info on these players for signings and for the draft. The tryout camps will entail:
Height, weight and measurements for each player
Combine like testing; 40 Yard Dash, Shuttle drills etc
Individual positional workouts and 1 on 1 drills led by the XFL coaching staffs
Private additional workouts and meetings with XFL Coaching staffs
Player interviews and background info
It is reported that the XFL intends to make the Showcases open to the general public and media. More details will be released soon.
The official dates and locations:
6/7 Dallas- Maverick Stadium in Arlington, Texas
6/8 Houston- TDECU Stadium
6/14 New York- Sprague Field at Montclair State University
6/15 DC- St. James Complex in Northern Virginia
6/21 LA- Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Beach
6/22- Seattle- Memorial Stadium in Seattle
6/29- Tampa- Raymond James Stadium
7/13- St. Louis- LFA Training Center
Note: This information posted with contributions by Mike Mitchell.
Big time money is being invested into the XFL. Hundreds of millions of dollars. ABC, FOX, ESPN and FS1 will be airing the league’s games. Two big time networks that produce NCAA Football and the NFL on a grand scale, have signed multi-year deals to be the broadcast homes/partners of the XFL. The league will debut in eight of the top twenty-one TV markets in the country. New York, LA, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, DC, Tampa and St. Louis. Big time money in big time cities on big time networks.
It’s becoming quite clear what the vision and design of XFL2020 is at this point, despite being labeled as such by most detractors. The XFL has no intention of being a minor league. They want to be what the USFL could have been , and they want to be what MLS has become. They are trying to be a powerful standalone sports league in the spring. The league’s partnerships and big-league football hires are evidence of just that.
Back in January 2018, when Vince McMahon announced the relaunch of the XFL, his announcement was met with great ridicule and skepticism. Why bring back a league that failed in such a spectacular fashion? Was there even a market for it, and who would support or be a part of it?
The latter question is being answered on a daily basis. This past week alone, saw XFL Dallas Head Coach/General Manager Bob Stoops hire Daryl Johnston as his Director of Pro Player Personnel, as well as hiring, Air Raid Inventor Hal Mumme as his offensive coordinator. Big time moves in Big D. This coming Monday, June Jones will be announced as the HC/GM of the XFL’s franchise in Houston. A big name in those parts, Jones is a great part of Houston pro-football history, especially from his time with the Houston Oilers and Gamblers.
The current XFL’s eight teams will now have five coaches with Head Coaching experience. The original XFL only had one coach with NFL Head Coaching experience in the late Ron Meyer. The eight original XFL Head Coaches were all quality coaches with backgrounds in NFL Europe and the NCAA, but for the most part, it was what you would expect from a “secondary league.” No one expected the current version of the XFL to attract Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, but it’s fair to state that the current group of coaches, collectively, are a very solid group, one that consists of a college football champion, Super Bowl champions and a multiple time CFL champion. In an upstart pro football league, this is a strong positive… getting accomplished coaches to buy in. It’s not an easy task in today’s world to get these types of coaches to believe and commit to a new league. Especially after what just happened with the AAF, and what has happened to countless other non-NFL football leagues.
When it comes to the XFL’s TV deal, most people assumed that the XFL would have a hard time getting any networks to air their games. With the new age of streaming, the feeling was that if all else failed, Vince McMahon would just put his games on his successful WWE Network. Some thought that perhaps, one of his cable partners like NBC Universal, would perhaps, as a favor, allow the league to air some games on USA network.
The last time Vince McMahon attempted to bring a football league onto the sports landscape. He wasn’t a billionaire three times over. NBC backed him and bought fifty-percent of the league. NBC parted ways with the NFL, and saw the original XFL as a cheaper and potentially rewarding alternative. By now, everyone knows how that story ended. NBC took their contractually obligated fifty-million dollars away from the XFL and went home after one season. McMahon’s other fledgling broadcast partners (UPN/TNN), tried to leverage a second season of the XFL against McMahon’s other property, the WWE. McMahon begrudgingly was forced to choose, and ended up shutting down the XFL.
Upstart leagues have a very hard time getting any exposure or TV time. The defunct United Football League tried desperately to get any network to air their games. They landed/settled on HD Net as their main TV home. There was always talk of the UFL ending up with a cable deal or even on the NFL Network. The UFL hoped to expand to more than just 4 or 5 teams. The thought was that it would happen, once the league got their long-awaited TV deal. It never came, and the league eventually folded, ending in what was the sports version of “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Upstart leagues have to beg for TV time, or in the case of the AAF, pay for it. These types of leagues are desperate for any type of attention and exposure. Credit to the Alliance, they found a way onto television by hook or by crook (Reggie Fowler). As admitted on ESPN Radio by Bill Polian, the AAF rushed into the marketplace to get ahead of the XFL. When it came to exposure for their league, the AAF knew that they wouldn’t be able to hit a home run, so they settled for just getting on base. The problem was that they never drove those runners home. The entire league was left stranded on base, unable to finish their season. The AAF still owes CBS and the NFL Network millions of dollars. They paid to be on CBS, which ended up airing only one game all season. They also paid NFL Network to be on their network. It was a neat way of creating the appearance/perception that the NFL was backing them by airing their games. Sort of like paying Marshawn Lynch thousands in quarters, to pretend that he was a backer of the AAF on TV. The Alliance was not only paying for production costs and air time, they were paying the on-air talents like former NFL Head Coach Steve Mariucci. As reported by Sports Business Journal’s Daniel Kaplan, Mariucci was being paid 20k per game, plus air fare.
The XFL having their games on ABC and Fox every single week is a big deal. Just being associated with those networks, gives the league a great rub. Having all four weekly games on Fox, ABC, ESPN and FS1 is the kind of exposure/coverage that sports leagues crave. Particularly an upstart sports league, that doesn’t have an established fan base or track record. Despite it being a new remodeled version, the XFL comes to the game with some blemishes on its image and record. The league still has a lot to prove.
There are some drawbacks to the XFL’s television deal, and the positives and negatives go hand in hand. Being on big networks ups the stakes. One of the things that killed the original XFL, was their failing ratings by 2001 standards in Network Primetime. The league’s championship game was a low point and had just over 3 million viewers. Ironically, this was the same number of viewers the AAF had in their premiere game on CBS. Being on a big network like NBC was great for the original XFL, but the expectation level of producing weekly primetime ratings hurt the XFL greatly. The league was setting historic weekly primetime lows in the ratings back then. However, the TV ratings landscape was vastly different two decades ago than it is now.
The current XFL will still have pressure to produce good numbers on Fox and ABC. The lone positive, however, is that the league’s games will not be on in primetime. Save for two games late in the season in weeks 9 and 10, that will be on primetime on Fox, the XFL will be airing early afternoon games in most of their markets. The “late” games are scheduled for 5pm Eastern, which would be 2pm on the west coast and 4pm Central Time. The ratings will still be judged, but on a different scale than if the league was in primetime on ABC and Fox. Instead the XFL is going to be in the position of being a lead in for other network sports and programming. Instead of being those networks feature presentations. Having to work and schedule around ABC and Fox’s many sports leagues, may have benefitted the XFL in the short run. The truth is that prime time games might not have been available on a weekly basis, even if the league wanted it. If the XFL was a weekly primetime entity on network TV, they would be expected to produce big numbers.
The other drawback to the TV deal is that the XFL is not being paid a rights fee by the networks. TV money helps keep leagues afloat. The XFL doesn’t have that luxury in this case, nor should it have been expected coming off the heels of the AAF’s demise, and other leagues like it. Besides the exposure and potential weekly coverage, and endorsement of being partnered with Fox and ABC, what the XFL is getting is their production costs covered by the networks. This could amount to 400 thousand dollars or more per game. Production costs for season one can range anywhere from 17 to up to and over 20 million dollars. The XFL is not paying to be on the air and won’t have to pay for the on-air talent. The presentation and production will be top notch, with premiere production and on-air talent from Fox and ABC’s deep broadcasting talent pool. Talents who have great knowledge and experience calling college and NFL games like Tim Brando and Joel Klatt for example. The networks will treat the games and players like they are important. This is the type of respect that upstart football leagues have really struggled getting in the past. All of this outweighs the negative of not commanding a typical sports league rights fee.
Ultimately, the XFL could have attempted to play in smaller markets and venues, and avoid paying expensive leases, or high salaries to coaches, office/football personnel or players. The XFL also could have looked to secure a rights deal with a cable network or a streaming service. There are so many networks out there looking desperately to add live content. The league could have gone small, limited their risks and costs, and the goal could have been to survive until they can potentially grow over time. That’s clearly not the strategy here. Perhaps there is an argument for that type of approach.
The XFL is clearly swinging for the fences right out the gate. The league might strike out and is guaranteed to lose a significant amount of money in the early going, as all startups do when they are trying to get off the ground. From the sounds and looks of it, Vince McMahon is prepared to take those lumps early on. Lose big early and then win late. The game to them is 9-innings, and the plan is to keep swinging for the fences until they start scoring big.
The XFL has announced they would introduce the new Head Coach/GM of the Houston franchise on May 20th at 11:30 am CT, at TDECU Stadium Club at the University Of Houston. The candidate, former Falcons and Chargers head coach June Jones, has widely been made known prior to the official unveiling, as it was originally tweeted by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
June Jones has been hired as the first head coach of Houston’s new XFL team. He was OC of CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, where he was the head coach in 2018. Jones was an assistant with Oilers and Gamblers as well as HC of Falcons, Chargers, Hawaii and SMU.
In the past, the 66-year-old Jones has spent three years as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and acted as interim head coach of the San Diego Chargers. More recently, he served as Head Coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the past two years.
Jones also has some local experience, since (as a young football coach) he was wide receivers coach of the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. Later he served as quarterbacks coach for the Houston Oilers. In these roles, he had a hand in the careers of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Warren Moon.
Jones will be the eight and final Head Coach hired by the XFL prior to their inaugural season kickoff in February 2020.