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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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Fall College Football Season In Jeopardy?

After taking precautions this off-season including programs delaying summer conditioning and preseason practice, adding and following health and safety protocols, and altering the schedule to only play conference opponents, it still seems the hopes of a fall college football season is fading quickly.

Last week, NCAA Division II and III both canceled their fall sports championships resulting in many conferences pushing back football to the spring of 2021.

In the FBS, UConn got the ball rolling by suspending all football activities for the 2020 season. This worried some around college football, but some others brushed it off due to the fact that UConn was playing as an independent this season therefore would’ve faced problems just getting a full schedule.

Then, on Saturday, the first major domino may have fallen.

The first FBS conference to pull the plug on fall sports would be the Mid-American Conference as they announced that they would postpone the entire fall sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

League presidents voted unanimously for the postponement and will hold on hope there will be a way to play football in the spring.

The MAC is in no way a Power 5 conference, but without the ability to play non-conference games against Power 5 schools, the MAC member schools would be strained in their ability to implement all the safety and health protocols the bigger conferences would have in their journey to play this season.

Therefore, that still leaves a bit of hope for Power 5 football this fall…until Sunday.

An emergency meeting between commissioners of the Power 5 conferences was held to discuss the likelihood of actually playing fall sports. The overall feeling from the meeting was that every day that goes by, it seems more and more likely that it would be impossible to play this fall.

Many conference leaders, especially those from the Big Ten, expressed interest in postponing the college football season until the Spring in hopes that the pandemic would be better controlled by early next year.

While conference leaders explore different avenues for the season, players have begin to jump in to the talks.

While some notable players have opted out of the 2020 college football season including projected NFL first-round picks Caleb Farley (CB, V-Tech), Jaylen Twyman (DT, Pitt), Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue), and Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State) among others, maybe the most notable spoke out on Sunday.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence took to Twitter with a series of tweets expressing interest in playing and also, mentioning the risks involved with not playing this season.

Using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, Lawrence was met with support from other notable players including Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State running back Cuba Hubbard and Alabama running back Najee Harris.

Parents from many players have also pledged their support to the players movement of playing this season.

If there is play, regardless of the schedule or if teams just play “regional” opponents, if there is travel, there will be positive tests.

It’s inevitable with the virus at it’s current state.

Major League Baseball has ran into it’s problems with multiple outbreaks and while that will get the mass attention, for the most part, the season has been a success through early-August.

The way it looks though now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this Fall features only pro football and we see a Spring college football season featuring an unusual schedule, a high number of injuries and many notable players opting out due to the risk with playing so close to the NFL Draft.

But, hey, spring college football is better than no college football, right?

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.

ACC Sets 11-Game Football Schedule, Adds Notre Dame for 2020

While the fate of college football is still very uncertain, conferences continue to make changes to accommodate travel and other concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced that it has reworked it’s football scheduling to allow each team to play a total of 11 games and will incorporate Notre Dame to the ACC for the 2020 football season.

Notre Dame, which competes in the conference for each sport except football, has lost many opponents already this season with conferences moving for conference-only schedules. With that in mind, Notre Dame will give up it’s independent status this year in hopes to have a full schedule of opponents.

The ACC also announced that it will eliminate the traditional divisional format for the 2020 season. The two teams with the best winning percentage will meet for the ACC Championship.

Notre Dame, as part of the deal, will equally share TV revenue among the 15 schools. Specific game dates and broadcast details will be released in the coming days.

The Return of the XFL

The Return of the Xtreme Football League

Is This the Right Move for Vince McMahon?

On January 25, 2018, Vince McMahon announced that in 2020 the XFL will be relaunching for your football viewing pleasure. McMahon has promised to bring football back to its pure form and back to the fans. The XFL initially launched in 2000 when McMahon wanted to be in opposition to the Canadian Football League. The league was advertised for its extreme hits, the ability for players to get bonuses for winning, and extreme names. We all remember He Hate Me (aka Rod Smart). So what pitfalls and dangers does Mr. McMahon face going forward?

Rod Smart while in the XFL

 

 

The XFL has Already Failed Before

Back in 2001, the XFL had one season. It limped through the year and it never really seemed to deliver on the X part of the equation. It burst on the season with promises to match the gridiron with more outrageous antics by the players. As someone who specializes in character and over the top personalities, you figure Vince would deliver more. However, it’s arguable that the only player to ever succeed post the league collapse was Tommy Maddox.

The ratings for the league that year were abysmal, and the attendance figures weren’t something to write home about. For a league advertised as over the top, at the end of the day football was football on the field. Vince needed to rely on the presentation of the game if he was going to live up to the hype and it never quite got where it needed to be in its short run.

The NFL Still Exists

The National Football League is football. Yes, there is the CFL, and yes there is the Arena Football League. But if you think of football you think of the SuperBowl, and you think of the NFL, they’re  synonymous. Now Vince McMahon believes he can put together a product to fill in a gap he perceives in the football market. However, there’s no proof this disparity exists. The NFL is already experience declining numbers, so maybe McMahon believes he can bring those fans to his league.

The XFL is positioning itself as the counterculture to the NFL. McMahon intends to stream XFL games on Sunday afternoons. The league will consist of eight team and 40-man rosters. The games promise to be shorter and a streamlined version of football. McMahon also stated there will be a code of conduct for the players in the league, likely to include no criminal record for the players. That’s an interesting way to cut the talent pool. The X in the XFL doesn’t sound very extreme anymore, so how will they differentiate themselves from the NFL?

Changing Attitudes Around Football

The halo that was once around football is slowing disappearing. As CTE is being shown to ravage players both long after they retire and as they play, more and more people realize the real strain put on these players.

When a player can begin their career in pop warner and potentially not retire until their late twenties, that is two decades of trauma to the human body on the field. Then the players are put through the rigor of numerous hours of physical exertion spent in the gym, traveling, and the stress of high-intensity sports. Compound that with the already improbable odds you’ll make the NFL, more parents are drawing back their kids from football.

There is also a social justice issue with the NFL at the moment. What started with Colin Kaepernick a couple of years ago has now become a flagship public issue. The fair treatment of American minorities has now been taken on Sunday afternoons and has caused a divide for fans of the game. However, Vince McMahon is again banking on picking up those fans who are souring on the NFL product. What he may be missing is that fans are souring on football in general, not the NFL.

Can the XFL succeed in 2020?

In 2001, the XFL was the loud, boisterous party that crashed on the scene and burned out just as quickly. In 2020, the XFL is going to be a rebranded, wholesome football league.

Vince McMahon’s history with alternative sports is a storied one. He was able to turn WWE into the empire of the professional wrestling world, and now he seeks to compete with the professional football empire. If McMahon is to be successful, he’s going to need to find a way to give fans a fulfilling, unique experience with this league.

McMahon should look to draw inspiration from his competitors in the professional wrestling world. Organizations like New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor are thriving despite a landscape dominated by one major player. They’ve been able to secure themselves due to excellent matches that go above and beyond the industry standard quality of WWE. It’s going to be a challenge for the XFL to perform at or above the level of the NFL talent. The XFL is going to need to get young talent that is capable of playing good football if it intends to compete. We’ll just have to wait until 2020 to see if the allure will be there.

Vince McMahon XFL announcement

Welcome back XFL!

Markus X. Murden, Esq.

Senior Editor/Heels of Wrestling