Now that the Super Bowl is over, are you ready for some football?
The new eight-team XFL starts this weekend, hoping to appeal to those fans who just can't wait for the return of football season.
You might remember the first version of the XFL. The league played its only season in 2001, and had the same goal - to capitalize on NFL withdrawal by selling fans on spring football. It was a joint venture between what is now World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: WWE) and what is now Comcast Corporation's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) NBC. Play was bad, TV viewership was really low, the league lost lots of money and NBC pulled out as soon as the first season ended. The league folded a month after the championship.
Another startup independent league, the Alliance of American Football, tried to make a go of it last year, but didn't make it through the year.
What To Know About The New Version Of The XFL
WWE CEO Vince McMahon is behind the new league, too, though he's using his own money to start it. The good news is that gives the league enough cash to grow in popularity slowly. McMahon is worth more than $2 billion.
What The League Looks Like
There are eight teams (there's a list below) and each will play 10 games on Saturdays and Sundays between Feb. 8 and April 12. In April, four teams will advance to the playoffs with a championship game scheduled for April 26.
Rule changes from traditional gridiron football include a running clock through most of the game meant to speed it up. It's going to be an offense-favoring league; for example, only one foot needs to be in bounds for a catch like in college football.
One gimmicky change: there are no extra point kicks. Teams can either go for one, two or three points after a touchdown by trying to score on a run or pass play from differing distances from the goal line.
Where You Can Watch It
The league has a TV deal, which would be the only way it could survive, of course. XFL games will be shown on Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS)-owned ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and FOX, FS1 or FS2, all owned by Fox Corp. (NASDAQ: FOXA). ESPN and Fox will also hold streaming rights under the deal, and more than half the games will be televised.
Who Is Running This Thing?
Oliver Luck is the commissioner and he has a pretty good football pedigree, having quarterbacked the Houston Oilers, and a strong sports administration resume, with stints as president of the NFL Europe, and Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo, athletic director at West Virginia University, and a vice president of the NCAA. He's also a lawyer and the father of former NFL quarterback Andrew Luck.
There are several people with NFL and other football credentials involved, such as former Bears coach Marc Trestman, who will head the Tampa team, Seattle coach Jim Zorn, who was a legendary Seahawks quarterback, and former college coach Bob Stoops, who won a national title at Oklahoma and will coach the Dallas team.
Who Is Playing?
You've never heard of most of these guys. Unless, perhaps, you're exactly the kind of hard-core fan the league is hoping will watch its games. Then maybe a couple names will ring a bell. There are a few who have some NFL experience though.
ESPN on Thursday pegged former Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones as the "face of the XFL." Jones has been working in construction in Texas, but now he'll be quarterbacking the Dallas Renegades. Some XFL players could do better financially as a construction worker - most will make about $55,000 a season. None are expected to make more than the NFL league minimum of $500,000.
- New York Guardians
- Washington Defenders
- Tampa Bay Vipers
- St. Louis Battlehawks
- Houston Roughnecks
- Dallas Renegades
- Los Angeles Wildcats
- Seattle BattleHawks
Photo courtesy of the XFL.