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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