Could McMahon’s Football Return Work?

If Vince learned from his XFL mistakes, a spring league viable

by Three Point Stance Managing Editor Brandon Rush | @BrandonRush

Most people look back on the XFL’s lone 2001 season an abject failure. A brash, brooding, overly sexualized, sloppy, poorly attended, TV ratings failure.

I am not one of those people.

Granted, there was a lot of things in hindsight that were abysmal, both on and off the field. But now that news has surfaced that the former XFL and current WWE head honcho Vince McMahon wants to reboot a football league, I believe IF Vince is willing to grow, learn from what caused the demise of the league and others before it, and be able stay the course, this new league could be a success. Vince is a “big ideas” guy, some of his XFL ideas have infiltrated how today’s game is played, broadcasted, and consumed.

Part of me wants this for selfish reasons. I’ve been romanticized by the history of the USFL, the raging successes and failures of the Arena Football League, and the countless attempts for developmental and unaffiliated outdoor leagues toiled in mediocrity. It’s obvious that many people are willing to TRY something new, football is a religion in many areas of the country, and for most, the gap of entertainment from February to August is just too much to bear.

So how can it work?

Site contributor Zack Couch and I kicked around ideas via text message as to how a new football league could work, its possible we sold ourselves on the idea.

First, when would these games be played?

Brandon: A spring league would be beneficial for multiple reasons. One, the market in the fall is already too crowded, not only for eyes, but also for facilities, television eyes, and ad revenue. Plus we are devoid of football for so many months, a spring league would fill that gap.

Zack: It might be too hard to compete with NCAA tournaments in March and with the NBA playoffs April thru June. But Vince does have a long standing relationship with NBC and Mike Tirico needs something to do in non-Olympic years.

Which brings us to the next question, who is going to air the product?

Brandon: I think a combination of the proven model of the WWE Network (streaming) and a mid-level cable channel would love to have spring sports content. I don’t think Network TV would touch him.

Zack: Are you sure? Vince’s relationship with NBC/Universal is strong even with wrestling ratings not being that great. If he can keep his costs down and lay off the ridiculously gimmicky stuff, he might have something.

I don’t really want such a huge focus on cheerleaders. I want to see a league with guys who just don’t want to go back to UPS and are hungry to prove themselves. Imagine a partnership with the NFL with this new league as a developmental league.

Brandon: I agree. The various indoor and arena leagues are littered with guys who keep playing for that reason, but you don’t see guys get signed off of those teams anymore.

What cities would get teams?

Brandon: I think a flaw in previous leagues was trying to embed themselves in MAJOR markets and established NFL cities. I’d love to see Memphis, Austin, Vegas, Oklahoma City, Birmingham, Toronto, Columbus, Orlando, Portland, San Diego, Louisville, and St. Louis.

Zack: Louisville, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Atlantic City, Hartford, Sacramento, San Antonio, Birmingham, St. Louis, Portland.

We both chuckled as our lists were very similar and sent within seconds of each other. Considering those markets previously had XFL/USFL/World League teams I think would be natural fits for this new venture.

After consideration I narrowed it down to eight cities, with two divisions.

– Close to Vince’s WWE home, gets the northeast market share. Rentschler Field, normally home to UCONN football seats 40,000 and is readily open in the spring.

Orlando – Previously home to the XFL’s Rage, USFL’s Renegades, and the NFL Europe/World League’s Thunder. The former Citrus Bowl has been remodeled and upgraded as Camping World Stadium that seats an impressive 65,000. Home to Orlando City FC of the MLS, a team in Orlando would have to split time in the stadium. WWE previously held a Wrestlemania at the venue.

Birmingham – Football crazy Alabama is an automatic for any league to consider putting a team in. In it’s 90th year open “The Old Gray Lady” Legion Field is still the host of UAB football holding 71,594 seats. Birmingham previous hosted the XFL’s Thunderbolts, USFL’s Stallions, and NLFE/WL’s Fire.

Columbus – Previously Ohio’s capital hosted the NFLE/WL’s Glory, but never was host to the USFL or the XFL. The Columbus Crew of the MLS currently play in Mapfre Stadium which only holds 19,968 seats, currently the smallest on this list, but for what this league is, monster stadiums aren’t going to be a requirement.

– This one is a bit of a reach in an unproven professional football market. Previously Portland had hosted teams in the Arena Football League, but never had a team in outdoor leagues. Providence Park, remodeled in 2010 to host the MLS Portland Timbers seats just north of 20,000.

Las Vegas – Vegas has had its run in the Arena League, United Football League, XFL, the Canadian Football League, and soon the NFL, but Sam Boyd Stadium is a bit of a dump compared to many others on this list. Even with recent renovations, 35,000 seats make for a destination when Vegas is on the schedule. Vegas has always had decent attendance numbers in previous incarnations.

Sacramento – Previously home to the UFL, California’s capital is an untapped professional football market. Stadiums might be the downfall for any potential host site as the largest right now is Papa Murphy Stadium, home to USL soccer club Sacramento Republic FC. The team has recently started a stadium project for an MLS team seating over 20,000.

Dallas – This one is the trickiest one, and potentially the most important because of the tie ins. The Star in Frisco, home of the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, a 12,000 seat indoor stadium. Dallas never hosted a team in any of the previous leagues incarnations, but McMahon’s relationship with billionaire buddy Jerry Jones could bridge a gap to make this venture towards being a developmental league for the NFL.

Lastly, how much will these players be paid?

If rosters are maxed at 45 each, players are maxed at $10,000 a game. In a ten game regular season, players who are on the active roster for every game could make $100,000.

So now that we’ve laid out the groundwork for this potential start up, will we see if Vince can make this work.

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