The XFL’s First Million Dollar Game
Home town fans could be sparse, but QB’s on opposing teams both come out swinging in defense of their own league.
LOS ANGELES – (AP) (21 April 2001) –The stands in the Coliseum are expected to be nearly empty and the national television audience may be the smallest ever for a pro sports title game.
To the San Francisco Demons and Los Angeles Xtreme, it’s still 60 minutes of football with a championship at stake when they meet today in The Million Dollar Game for the XFL’s first title.
“Our team and entire organization are just excited to be in the game and can’t wait until it starts,” said Demons coach Jim Skipper, a longtime NFL assistant.
The Xtreme’s Tommy Maddox, the Most Valuable Player of the XFL after throwing for a league-high 2,186 yards and 18 touchdowns, also is eager for the 5p.m. kickoff.
“I just love playing the game and winning,” said Maddox, a former UCLA star and NFL backup. “To be able to play for a championship, I don’t care what league it’s in, that’s exciting.”
The title game, with the winning team dividing up the $1million bonus, concludes what began as a promising first season for the new league jointly owned by the World Wrestling Federation and NBC. But crowds dwindled and viewers tuned out by the millions.
After a debut that had the highest ratings in its time slot on NBC, some of the league’s games later in the regular season were believed to have been the lowest-rated prime-time programs ever on one of the three major networks. NBC is almost sure to back out of its two-year deal after the game.
Attendance also has been thin — Los Angeles’ semifinal victory over Chicago drew only 13,081, the Xtreme’s smallest crowd of the season and 22,802 fewer than their home opener.
Despite the waning interest in the league, XFL president Basil DeVito has said the XFL will be back next year.
Critics have questioned the quality of play in the eight-team league, but the players and coaches believed it improved over the course of the 10-game regular season.
“There are a lot of people out there who have really missed the boat,” Demons quarterback Mike Pawlawski said. “There are a lot of good players in this league. To bash this league is to bash NCAA football around the country. This is better than college football.”
Skipper noted that about half the Demons players have been on NFL rosters. He said that, while the league may not have big, fast and agile linemen, the players in the new league’s skill positions “are as good as anywhere.”
Members of today’s winning team will receive $22,000 to $26,000 apiece, depending on how they vote to split the bonus. That is about half the salary each was paid for the entire 10-game season.
The Demons and Xtreme split two regular-season meetings.
The Demons won 15-13 at San Francisco on Feb.4, when Pawlawski completed 31 of 47 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Panasuk kicked a 33-yard field goal as time ran out.
The Xtreme won the rematch in the L.A. Coliseum 24-0 on April 7, with Maddox throwing for 164 yards and one score while Pawlawski passed for 136 yards, with two interceptions.
The Demons are expected to have Pawlawski back following a shoulder injury.