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XFL Mail Bag

XFL Mailbag #4 – More expansion questions, player acquisition, CFL/XFL merger, and more!

With this XFL Mailbag, I’ve tailored some of the answers with an eye toward a potential CFL/XFL partnership.

XFL Mailbag

With this XFL Mailbag, I’ve tailored some of the answers with an eye toward a potential CFL/XFL partnership. If you’d like to participate in future editions of the XFL Mailbag, send your questions to XFLMailbag@gmail.com. The questions that follow are edited for length and clarity.

Lee asks: “Is there a chance for an expansion team in Birmingham? I was a season ticket holder for the original XFL team in Birmingham, the Birmingham Thunderbolts. I would love a new team to be brought back. I loved it. Hopefully the XFL sees the potential here.”

Birmingham finished seventh out of eight teams in attendance in the 2001 version of the XFL. It probably did not help that the Thunderbolts had the league’s worst record. In the AAF in 2019, Birmingham was middle of the pack in attendance, at the same stadium as the Bolts, but still averaged about 3,000 less per game than XFL Birmingham. That said, I do agree there is potential there.

I often reference size of market when answering questions that are related to expansion, and Birmingham is 43rd in the country. If this was a bigger market, perhaps the new owners would see a reason to go back in and try a third time. But as the 43rd market by size, you have to wonder if it’s really worth it. If a CFL/XFL partnership includes expansion beyond the teams that currently exist in those leagues, or more of an American presence, Birmingham may be in the conversation. I’m not sure that’d be a long conversation.

Johnboy asks: “When will the XFL start adding some teams? I have a couple of cities and stadiums that might work as expansion teams: Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington and Ron Tonkin Field in Portland, Oregon.”

In addition to wanting the major media markets covered, one has to assume the XFL would want to look at markets that are not yet covered by existing teams if expansion is on their to-do list. With a team already in Seattle, Tacoma and Portland may be a little lower on the priority list. Portland intrigues me because of its reputation for embracing the alternative, which is similar to how the XFL has marketed itself in the past. The MLS Portland Timbers have sold out every game since 2011, proving the city will support a franchise that isn’t part of the big four sports leagues. Seattle actually shares a media market with Tacoma (13th in size) and Portland comes in at 22nd.

As for the specific stadiums: Cheney Stadium is home to the Tacoma Rainiers, a AAA minor league baseball team. The capacity of 6,500 would be a non-starter for a league like the XFL unless the new owners decide to play in more downsized stadiums. While the Dallas Renegades played in Globe Life Park where the Texas Rangers were occupants, it’s one thing to change a major-league stadium from baseball to football; it’s another to do so with a AAA budget and manpower.

Ron Tonkin Field is a relatively new venue, having opened in 2013. Its tenant is another minor league baseball team, the High-A level Hillsboro Hops. Capacity is just 4,500, creating the same issue as the stadium in Tacoma. The transition from football to baseball for a lower-level minor league baseball team would be even more difficult. Providence Park, where the Timbers play, seats 25,000 and would, on a cursory glance, be more suitable for the XFL.

Miles asks: “When the XFL starts ramping up again, how will they accumulate players this time around? Do you think they’ll do the draft again, or do something different? How might they modify the way they acquired talent before to make it as efficient and entertaining as possible?”

I had never thought about the XFL doing something other than a draft to procure players for its teams. Thinking about this question, though, leads me back to the idea that Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, and RedBird Capital may have a different view of player acquisition outside the narrow vision of a traditional football operations department. Perhaps they would come up with a way we wouldn’t even think of to populate the teams, and yes, make it more efficient and entertaining in the meantime. It could still be a “draft” of some kind, although with some twists from an outsider’s perspective.

It becomes a messier issue if you look at the CFL and XFL joining forces. If it is a full merger, will the XFL teams be treated as expansion teams, with the opportunity to pluck players off CFL rosters? Or will they be built separately with CFL free agents and street free agents who sign on with the league? Will players who played with the XFL in 2020 have an opportunity to return to their former teams if they are currently unaffiliated? If you follow my work on XFLBoard you know I’m a player personnel nerd so this kind of question will keep me up at night. There truly are many ways this could go down.

Rick asks: “I’m a BattleHawks fan. There are several people on my Facebook page interested in tickets. When can we expect news on this?”

This question was sent in prior to XFL 2022 being put on hold. The longer that hold and conversations with the CFL go on, the less likely the XFL will be ready to proceed with a season in 2022. The answer to this question hinges on the CFL partnership and possible merger. Even if the two groups agree to work together, 2023 might be more realistic for kickoff than 2022. At XFL.com/tickets, you can fill out a form with your ticket interests. Presumably, the league will keep in touch via e-mail when more information on this subject becomes available.

Reid asks: “What is a realistic possibility that the XFL (were it to merge with CFL) does any cosmetic field modifications to more closely align itself with the current CFL game? (Field length/width/field goal posts).”

There are many balls still up in the air when it comes to a possible merger, and no aspect is getting more coverage on the Canadian side than how their game might change. The CFL does have different rules than Americans are used to seeing in their football games. The million dollar (quite literally) question is: Will the XFL change to fit the CFL rules, or vice-versa? Or does the merger go ahead with, somehow, two different sets of rules, similar to the American League and National League in Major League Baseball?

In order to get CFL fans on board, I would think the CFL would want to push to have as many of its rules go forward in the merger. To many CFL fans, at least at this moment, losing out on some of the rules that make the league unique is a deal-breaker. It’s really all about which side is negotiating this deal from a position of strength; right now, I’m not sure if that’s the CFL or XFL. If the XFL can’t get off the ground without a deal with the CFL, then the CFL may be able to get more of their rules in; if the CFL is looking to partner with the XFL to break into the United States or whatever reasons they have for being at the negotiating table, then the XFL might demand the CFL change its rules to accommodate them. There is a long list of items CFL and XFL fans are waiting patiently to hear about come out of this deal; league rules are near the top.

Greg Parks is a columnist for Pro Wrestling Torch (pwtorch.com). He covers the XFL for XFLBoard.com. He has written extensively about the XFL. He resides in Naples, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks.

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