I honestly did not think I would live to see this day, but the XFL is coming back in 2020. WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon announced on Thursday that he is re-booting the league. He held a press conference that was really him re-introducing the league, and then answering questions on video through a conference call. If you did not catch it, SB Nation has a helpful rundown.
The original XFL, which operated in 2001 was much like the WWE in terms of attempting to get the testosterone-driven demographic. It was all about big hits on the field, sex appeal via the cheerleaders, and your general alpha male kind of thing. It got off to a good start in Week 1, but ratings went in the tank quickly, and it was cancelled after only one season.
This time around, McMahon pushed the idea that it would be family friendly and focused on player safety. He said players with criminal records would not be welcome in the league (sorry, Johnny Manziel). He did not specifically state players will be required to stand for the National Anthem, but he all but made it clear that would be the case. He talked about his love for the Anthem and said there would be a code of conduct players would be expected to follow — he also said there would be no political or social issues mixed into the league.
I don’t imagine many people here paid a ton of attention to the first iteration of the XFL, but it was wild, to say the least. Former 49ers quarterback Jim Druckenmiller was in the league, and Jose Cortez played there before signing with the 49ers. One-time 49ers quarterbacks Jeff Brohm and Pat Barnes also played in the XFL. I actually had an XFL fantasy team for the one year the league existed!
The XFL was actually ahead of its time in terms of presenting the game. The SkyCam we now see in the NFL was first used in the XFL. The on-field product was pretty atrocious, and that is why the league sank so quickly. They over-invested in mostly mediocre at best football players, and nobody is going to watch that kind of football with any regularity.
Which brings us to the new XFL. McMahon said they will play starting in late January or early February, and while he would not characterize them as a “spring league,” he did make it clear they would be playing outside the NFL season. The question though is talent. Unless they plan a USFL style over-paying of players, it could be difficult finding experienced talent to cross over.
The current collective bargaining agreement provides a league minimum in 2020 of $510,000 for rookies. Minimum salaries for non-rookies will range from $585,000 (first year, non-rookies) to $1,045,000 for players with 10+ credited seasons. There will be a decent amount of veterans who won’t be able to land those higher veteran minimums, so that is a potential talent pool, particularly with a spring league.
There are two ways this could get interesting. The first is if there is a work stoppage after the 2020 season when the CBA expires. That could open the door for players to have somewhere to play until the NFL returns. The other is if the league decides to try and sign college players who are not yet eligible for the NFL. A player must be at least three full years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL Draft. So, maybe the XFL looks to bring in rising sophomores and juniors who want to make money playing football.
Given that we are two full years away from the launch, there is a lot to be determined (including what cities will be involved). It is entirely possible this all disappears between now and then. But if it does pan out, I have to admit I’m intrigued to see how they approach this whole thing.
And if it gets the Round Mound of Touchdown back in the game, I’m all for it!