XFL Mailbag #1 – Canadian players, expansion, season tickets, and more!
If you’d like to participate in future editions, send your questions to XFLMailbag@gmail.com.
Welcome to the first XFLBoard.com XFL Mailbag! If you’d like to participate in future editions, send your questions to XFLMailbag@gmail.com. I’ll answer whatever questions you may have on any version of the XFL. (Questions may be edited for length and/or clarity)
Tim asks: “Is there a timeframe for when coaches will be hired by the XFL?”
While we haven’t heard any timeframes laid out for, well, ANYTHING related to XFL 2022 yet, we can look at the timeline XFL 2020 followed to get an idea of when announcements like coaching hires could be made. The bulk of XFL 2020 head coaches were announced in the spring of 2019. That would be the timeframe I’d imagine the league would want to stick with, meaning we could hear news on coaching hires in the spring of 2021.
This may also depend on how many previous coaches are brought back. Some, like June Jones, have expressed a desire to return to the XFL for its restart. An extensive search then wouldn’t be necessary, so these returning coaches could be announced sooner. Few XFL assistant coaches have been hired during the 2020 coaching cycle, so many staffs may return close to intact as well. The one notable exception is the DC Defenders, whose head coach, Pep Hamilton, is now the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Mike asks: “Do you think Tampa can work as an XFL market?”
Based on home attendance, Tampa was one of the more disappointing markets in XFL 2020. The team drew fewer than 20,000 fans in both of its home games. The city of Tampa has a good relationship with WWE and Vince McMahon, which may have been a factor in the city being awarded a franchise. Fans have already speculated about a move out of Tampa and potentially into another Florida market like Orlando. Florida has a reputation for struggling to support some of its pro franchises – as a fan of the Miami Marlins and Jacksonville Jaguars, I can attest to that.
I’m hesitant to dismiss Tampa as a viable city outright; they suffered, just as New York did, from holding games in an NFL stadium, which is not conducive to a great fan experience when there are 50-60,000 empty seats on gameday. However, there are few realistic alternate sites in the Tampa area. Some markets embrace a new sports team right away; some take time for fans to build a relationship with the team. Tampa could be the latter. The other factor to consider is that the Tampa/St. Petersburg media market is 13th in size in the country. It was Vince McMahon’s philosophy to go into those bigger markets with 2020 franchises. Will the new owners place the same importance on market size when evaluating which teams will return to their respective cities?
I’m sure there are other metrics XFL officials will look at, of which we don’t have access, to study the engagement of the Tampa area fans and businesses to determine the fate of the franchise for 2022 and beyond.
Kyle asks: “Between XFL 1.0 and XFL 2.0, there has never been a player from CIS/USPORT that has played for the XFL. What can we expect from the Canadian university football league, currently known as USPORT although formerly referred to as CIS? Is there any XFL player potential there? Back when XFL 2.0 had their draft, I noticed there was not one Canadian university football player. After further research, I noted XFL 1.0 was the same. Why?”
The easy answer to this would seem to be that the Canadian Football League takes in most of the top players from Canadian colleges. Therefore, there may not be a lot of talent left over for secondary American football leagues. The only Canadian college player to even attend an XFL Summer Showcase in 2019 was S Stavros Katsantonis from British Columbia, and that was only possible because a drug violation flagged at the CFL Combine forced him to sit out a year in Canada.
All of that said, it’s imperative XFL scouts leave no stone unturned in its search for quality players. I’ve written many times that the quality of play on the field will be a big factor in making or breaking the long-term future of the league. The league simply can’t afford to have tunnel vision and only accept players from major colleges; therefore, the small college ranks in America as well as Canadian colleges should be studied to determine the best players available.
Ronald asks: “Will season ticket holders from 2020 get first crack at season tickets for 2022?”
I hope this is the case. What better way to engender continued fan support in these cities than to reach out to those who supported XFL 2020 from the start? Each city has a built-in fanbase of varying sizes; the new owners can’t ignore the base that has already been built. It will be interesting to see what sort of outreach programs are put into place to ensure fans of the 2020 version of the league return to show their support in 2022. The league should have a database of season ticket holders from 2020, so this would be one of the easier ways to reward the die-hards.
Marc asks: “I guess I’m looking too far ahead, but: When the XFL gets up and running again, are they thinking of expanding and if so, what cities are on the list? Hopefully Chicago is one of them because lots of people would love to see some decent football!”
Shots fired at the Bears on this one. One of the most popular topics among XFL fans, before and after XFL 2020 declared bankruptcy, was projecting out future expansion of the league. This site even ran a poll in October asking fans to submit their desired locations for expansion.
Expansion presents many new revenue opportunities, but it certainly comes at a cost. With the new ownership group potentially not wanting to spend as much as Vince McMahon had planned, they have to weigh the costs versus benefits of expanding with new franchises so soon. Dany Garcia, in early press interviews following the purchase of the XFL, referred to expansion as something the group is interested in pursuing. Perhaps they can use money they expect to get in a television deal to help fund the expansion, but until we see the monetary gains from any television contract, we’ll have to wait to see just how serious they can be about expanding.
As far as potential cities, longtime XFL fans remember Chicago as being behind most of the other cities in attendance in 2001. A lot can change in 20 years and Chicago, being the third largest media market in the country, would be tempting. As always, finding a place to play would be key. Soldier Field would be an option as the Enforcers played there in 2001, but would present the same drawback as Tampa and New York faced in their NFL stadiums in 2020. SeatGeek Stadium, located in a suburb of Chicago, holds Major League Soccer and Major League Lacrosse games. Its current soccer configuration caps out at 20,000 fans however, which may be too far on the low end of the league’s preference for stadium size. Asking fans to sit outside in bitter midwestern winters to watch football is a whole other problem.
San Antonio garnered the most votes in the XFLBoard.com poll noted above, due in large part to its success hosting the Alliance of American Football Commodores in 2019. The team drew an average of 27,000 per game, far and away the highest number in the AAF. St. Louis showed a willingness to embrace the BattleHawks in 2020, partly due to its determination to show the world they can support a football team after losing the Rams five years ago. For that same reason, San Diego might be a viable choice. They also drew nearly 20,000 per game for the Fleet in the AAF. San Francisco supported the Demons in big numbers in 2001, which would put them atop any potential expansion list. Expansion is a fun topic to think about because if the XFL gets to that point, chances are it will have shown to be successful enough to branch out beyond its current eight-team arrangement.