Why the XFL needs to return this fall

Bring the XFL back this fall

With rumors swirling that the FBS college football conferences are planning to cancel their 2020 seasons, the XFL should plan to reboot and play in a bubble this fall.  More than that, the XFL should make a list of all rising seniors, juniors, and red-shirt sophomores (i.e. all 2021 NFL Draft-eligible players). They can invite the top-rated among them to play in the league should college football be canceled. 

Think about it, the XFL was always best as a supplemental league for the fans and, as we saw this past spring, as a feeder system for the NFL.  We are also staring at the possibility of no college football this fall and most high schools are also canceling, as they should.  (Btw, we are one or two major outbreaks on any given team away from no NFL football as well).  This is the XFL’s opportunity to supplement the college and high school football seasons and grasp a long-sought viewership foothold.  Many of the top players want to play (aside from a few projected NFL first-round picks who have already opted out) and would still have a route to the NFL draft without having to wait an extra season to showcase their skills. 

The scenarios of returning

I know it seems like a quick turnaround, but imagine this scenario: (1) the various FBS conferences cancel their seasons or postpone them until spring 2021.  (2) The XFL springs into action and organizes the league for an Oct start (this would involve signing players/coaches/staff; securing a bubble; securing a TV contract; testing/clearing players; and all the logistics of equipment, accommodations, etc.).  (3) The XFL is playing nationally televised games in prime-time on Saturdays and Friday nights Oct-Dec 2020 with some of college football’s biggest stars.   

The XFL only entertains this plan only if the point (1) is true so all of this is moot if college football is played in 2020 (which, unfortunately, seems increasingly unlikely).  However, the XFL does not have a ton to lose here and can make all these contingency plans without putting out a lot of capital or loss of public goodwill. 

Point (2) is the more labor-intensive piece by far, difficult but not impossible.  Signing the players in such a short time frame seems doable as there are many who want to play.  I don’t imagine that most of the current D1 stars would take the risk of playing for the $60 or $70k that they might get under the XFL’s previous salary structure.  However, the XFL might be able to get more funding if they’re going to be the only game in town on Saturdays and Friday nights.  In addition, they don’t need all of the college players to sign with them. I think 30-40 would do the trick and even 10-20 would be enough to be of interest to the average college fan. 

Players to consider

Stars like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields would be huge boons for the XFL this year. Although, they would be a super unlikely sign.  However, both players have said they want to play football in 2020. If the college season will not be played, maybe there is a chance that they would suit up for the XFL.  Even if they didn’t, there are plenty of guys to take their place that both need to put more film up for NFL teams and have big enough profiles to move the needle.  

Guys like Sean Clifford (Penn State) Patrick Jones (Pitt), or Andre Cisco (Cuse) are NFL hopefuls who might see their stock jump with a productive XFL season and would help bring in viewers.  

The XFL could draw in a ton of new fans who are used to watching these players on Saturdays.  Kenny Robinson (former WVU and XFL Safety) has proven that there is a path to the NFL draft through the XFL last season.  (IIRC, the XFL even agreed to pay for Kenny’s additional credit hours through graduation; they could work out a similar deal with all of the currently enrolled student-athletes)

Where to play?

Securing a bubble would be another tough aspect of this, but with only eight teams and roughly 416 players. This would be doable.  There are many hotel complexes that are sitting idle these days. I am sure that one would jump at the chance of the added revenue.  

Vegas was considered for the NBA bubble and Columbus worked for TBT bubble. I would propose Mohegan Sun, CT as the COVID-19 numbers are low in the region.  

With a short schedule like the one the XFL already has, the bubble would only need to be intact for 2.5-3 months. This includes a full season, playoffs, and the championship.  They could even shorten it to 2 months or so if that was better for the league. 

Win-win for everyone:

With the above in place, a lucrative TV contract would practically fall into the XFL’s laps. ESPN is right there in Bristol, CT. Staff would be easy to come by as the country’s unemployment rate is abysmally high. I think they could scrounge up some coaches as they did this past year.  

College football cancels their season (which in this scenario they are doing anyway and they miss the liability they are trying to avoid).

For the fans, they will still get football on Saturdays while the XFL gets their foothold. The players get to play, and the NFL still has its feeder system. 

Of course, this is an unlikely and downright herculean task. If anyone is up to it, it is the baller himself. The new part-owner of the XFL – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.  Come on Dwayne, be the best damn XFL owner there ever was!  

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The Rock and Co. Buy the XFL

Finally The Rock has Come Back To Football

XFL Logo
Did you miss us already?

The Rock is no stranger to the gridiron, and now he has come back to take ownership. The XFL has been given a third chance at life, this time under the helm of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. An investment group including The Rock, his ex-wife Dany Garcia, and Redbird Capital have agreed to purchase the suspended football league from Vince McMahon for $15 million dollars. Just this year, McMahon was poised to bring back the XFL in full force when Covid-19 put a stop to all audience attendance at sporting events and the league had to cease operations.

Is The Rock Beating a Dead Horse?

The first time the XFL debuted, the league garnered itself some notice for being associated with the blazing hot WWE at the time. The XFL also had the added benefit of trying to back up the “Xtreme” in its name with unique jersey names along with weekly bounties and awards for winning every week. The league was attempting to set itself apart from your average Sunday afternoon offering from the NFL.

The league eventually folded due to low viewership and waning interest. Vince McMahon then announced a comeback for the league back in 2018 for 2020. You can read my thoughts about the launch back in 2018, The Return of the XFL. Sad to say, my predictions were not too far off, but Covid completely derailed what could have been a decent product. Maybe it could have worked out in the end?

As of the publishing of this article only the buying of XFL has been announced. The Rock could want to gut the league for all we know. But what if he does want to have his own gridiron league? What can the now Most Electrifying sports league owner do to make sure this is a success?

Make the XFL an Arena Football League

So, this one may not be as obvious as it seems, but its simplicity is what makes it genius. If XFL is an arena league, they can move into a Covid bubble and begin competition relatively soon.

Amway Center
Come to Orlando, I’ll buy some tickets! (vaccine must be included)

The NFL is horribly lagging with their Covid protocols and getting the league up and running. The XFL at its inception and heart is an interrupter league to the NFL. It should either be there as an alternative to the NFL or a filler when the NFL is not operating. Now is the time it can be the latter. Even if the XFL were to come back with 8 teams, in an arena, it can still be football for the craving fans.

The AFL was a fantastic product when it was going. I would imagine that renting arenas would be cheaper than stadiums in both the short term and the long term. In addition, it would create a visual separation for the league against the NFL, another branding opportunity.

Make The Rock the Face of the League

The Rock
He once sold us on a movie with him as the Tooth Fairy.

This one is the no brainer. The Rock is a marketing magnate. I can’t think of anything he doesn’t touch that at least garners some kind of cultural status. The Titan Games, his show on NBC is doing respectable ratings. Ballers on HBO is somehow still going along. And he elevated The Fast and The Furious franchise to new heights as well. Oh, and he has his own Tequila

As you can see the list is endless. The man has a Midas touch. Put him on some posters, run some commercials during his own programming, and you will bring in people.

He Hate Me
Will They Hate You a Third Time?

The Rock has two other strikes at the XFL wheel to look at to see what failed. It has been a struggle for a secondary league to stay open against the NFL. The USFL tried and failed back in the ’90s. The XFL has been limping through this new millennium, but the star power of The Rock may be the crutch it needs to start cooking for the people again.