Will The XFL Succeed Or Fail?

will the xfl succeed or fail

Will the XFL fail or be successful? I think that’s the question on everyone’s mind as the season unfolds. That seems to be more of the focus than who is going to win the XFL Championship in 2020. If you are not a fan of any team in the XFL, then most of your conversations with friends is likely about gambling and if the league is going to last. An XFL history lesson from 2001 suggests that the league will fold after a year of play. The AAF didn’t make it a season before the cord was pulled. There is confidence that the XFL will not suffer the same fate, though. Even if the league was stumbling financially, Vince has too much of an ego and has the money to get to the championship game.

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The XFL was not doing well in-season in 2001, and the season managed to finish with a champion being named. The LA Xtreme won the inaugural season. There obviously hasn’t been a champion since Tommy Maddox led the Xtreme to the top. That was quite a bizarre season, which was focused more around the theatrics than football on the field. The original XFL did spawn the overhead camera that has become a fixture in football broadcasts, so it wasn’t all ridiculous in 2001. Other than the mics and interviews on the sidelines, the XFL is trying to avoid getting too outrageous while being intuitive. There are arguments to be made for the optimistic and pessimistic camps. Let’s get to it below and try to decipher if the XFL will fail or be successful.

Why The XFL Will Be Successful

Gambling

Sports betting was more of a taboo subject in 2001 than it is in 2020. Online gambling was just beginning to take form at that point, with the user base miniscule compared to what we’re dealing with now. If you wanted to bet on the XFL back then, you were likely going through a bookie at the local watering hole. Not only is sports betting bigger and more widely available, sports leagues are embracing gambling. The XFL is leading the way in that regard, with odds on display during games, and a section of their website for betting news and tips.

This is a smart move by the XFL to encourage sports betting on their games. A large portion of their viewers are betting on the games, and with the NFL season done, it’s the only football to bet on until the CFL begins in the spring. The football betting market is all theirs right now, and the XFL should be able to attract viewers because of money wagered on games.

Vince McMahon

Yes, we already have Vince McMahon on record failing when it comes to the XFL. However, McMahon is playing this version of the XFL, nearly 20 years later, a lot smarter. He hired Oliver Luck, a prominent figure in football, to be in charge of the league as CEO and commissioner. Luck was the executive VP for regulatory affairs in the NCAA prior to accepting the XFL job. He was also the AD at West Virginia University, so Andrew Luck’s dad has experience in big roles.

Further, McMahom is putting a lot of money into this league. He sold nearly $300 million in his WWE stock to invest in the XFL. It’s expected that $500 million is going to go into the XFL out of his pocket. In comparison to 2001, that’s about five times the investment from McMahon’s first foray in football. Also keep in mind that the guy certainly has an ego and doesn’t like failing. Folding not once, but twice would hurt. Expect him to do whatever it takes for the XFL to be a success.

TV Contracts

The AAF was able to sign a contract with CBS. That sounds great and all, but the vast majority of the games were on CBS Sports Network. That’s a channel that typically covers Mountain West football. It’s not the most accessible network, and fringe fans who were on the fence about the league, weren’t going to seek it out if it wasn’t in front of them. The AAF budget wasn’t big enough to be able to sign a deal with a larger network, so they had to settle with putting games on the CBS Sports Network.

The XFL went after the big boys right away, as they secured deals with FOX and Disney. Games are being televised on FOX, ABC, and ESPN. That reaches a wide spectrum of viewers that can easily find games. For people that might not otherwise tune-in, they’ll likely be curious enough to see what the XFL is about. For the XFL to succeed, it was imperative that McMahon went fishing for TV giants and he was able to accomplish that much. The production value looks a lot better than it did in the AAF on the CBS Sports Network, including the broadcast teams. And across three weeks of play, the ratings are up and look way stronger than the AAF.

Football Markets

I think another error that the original XFL, and more recently the AAF, made was going after smaller markets. Memphis, Birmingham, Orlando, and Las Vegas were all cities in the XFL 2001, though none of them had an NFL team, thus they were experimenting in markets that haven’t shown interest in professional football. Las Vegas is a lot different than it was in 2001 now, so football is going to work there in 2020, but back then it was a town that was still filling out. In any event, Vince took more of a gamble with smaller markets that have no history of backing a professional team.

Every team in the rebirth of the XFL has shown interest in professional football. In that sense, there is no gambling or hoping involved. St. Louis is the only city without an NFL team, but it’s not like fans didn’t show their appreciation for the Rams, albeit fans were tuning the team out after years of awful play. The Rams drew a crowd when there was a competitive team on the field. In any event, Stan Kroenke took the team back to Los Angeles, where he’ll have a brand new stadium soon. Vince was wise to jump on the St. Louis market and bring football back to The Dome.

Why The XFL Will Fail

Quarterback Play

Generally speaking, more fans are going to be interested in the XFL if the quarterbacks are completing passes and moving the ball downfield. Casual fans are going to tune games out if there are quarterbacks who can’t consistently put drives together and come up with big plays. Nobody wants to watch check down football. Vince and the XFL know this, and they applied rules, like a shorter play clock to speed up the game. This is an attempt to make games more exciting and watchable.

No, the XFL doesn’t have to be like the Arena Football League and have touchdowns every 30 seconds. What I think they’d like, though, is a league that is offensive based like the Big 12. However, professional defensive players are obviously going to be better than the Big 12, even guys who are unable to reach the NFL. Having said that, quality quarterbacks would help counter that easily, and the XFL just doesn’t have a lot of those at the moment.

How many quarterbacks in the XFL are in the league that make you HAVE to watch a game? Crickets. And yeah, there are bad quarterbacks in the NFL, but at least the NFL has must-watch quarterbacks on a weekly basis. The XFL might need to do better than Cardale Jones, who just struggled against one of the worst teams in the league, to continue to attract viewers.

Lack of Recognizable Names

Landry Jones and Cardale Jones are the faces of the XFL. They’re certainly the most recognizable players in the league. If that’s all the XFL can attract with regards to star power, then it’s possible that fans get bored and begin turning their attention to the upcoming draft in April. The XFL tried to attract Tim Tebow to the league for a reason, and it’s not because of his football skills. He could have generated a nice buzz and clicks online, but he opted to stick with minor league baseball.

What the league must try and do is find well-known players who are no longer wanted by the NFL. Dez Bryant would be somebody that helps the XFL. However, is a guy like Bryant going to play football for such a small amount? Dez was making $13-million in 2017, so it’d have to be for the love of the game and not money. A lot of players who are already well off financially are not going to risk their health for XFL money.

Contracts

This ties into attempting to attract star power to the XFL, but it also involves competing with “real jobs” available to players out of college, along with the CFL as well. The average pay in the XFL is about $55,000. Players also get a bonus if their team wins, which is a nice award for teams that play well. However, that’s not going to attract former star players from the NFL, nor is it going to attract players coming out of college who might have a career in another field lined up. With the health risks involved with football, there will be players who opt to get their career started in whatever field without having to put their brain on the line.

Yes, the XFL is more attractive than the CFL for average players, especially with the exchange rate and less games on the schedule, but that doesn’t count for quarterbacks. You can make really good money as a great quarterback in the CFL. Take for instance, Zach Collaros who can make up to $1-million in his deal this season with the Blue Bombers. Bo Levi Mitchell inked a four-year deal worth $2.8-million. With that kind of money in the CFL, neither guy is running back to the US to play in the XFL, a league that may or may not work.

Note, though, if the XFL does succeed, then money will undoubtedly have to go back to the players, hence growing the league and attracting better talent. Will the XFL be able to last long enough to get to that point, though? It could take a few years before serious money begins to flow in, and at that point, the league may no longer be around.

In Conclusion

Will the XFL be successful? That’s kind of a complicated question. I am confident that the XFL is going to have a full season of play and actually have a champion, unlike the AAF. Your XFL future bets are likely going to be okay. I’m also confident that the XFL completes two years. Given that the ratings seem to be doing well thus far, I foresee a second season in the works for the XFL as well. The water gets murkier after that, though if the ratings stay up, sponsorship money is going to be there for Vince McMahon and the XFL. If you’re looking to get involved with XFL betting, MyBookie is providing a free nice cash bonus to get you started.

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Kyle E / Author

Kyle is a veteran of The Sports Geek and has spent nearly a decade providing accurate sports picks and writeups here. He has been a sports handicapper for 10+ years and started sharing his picks and thoughts in 2011 at The Sports Geek. His expertise spans across multiple sports, including the NFL, NCAAF, MLB, and the NHL. Prior to writing for The Sports Geek, Kyle was a fantasy football expert, who ultimately parlayed it into a successful sports betting career. You can find his picks daily at The Sports Geek.