With the collapse of the short-lived Alliance of American Football league coming just eight games into a planned 10-game season, the list of defunct NFL challengers gained yet another victim.
But that doesn’t appear to be impacting the optimism of XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck as he continues to build out the reincarnation of the league founded and backed by WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
The league, which McMahon originally co-founded with NBC in 2001 and completed one full season before shutting down that same year, is planning a return in the spring of 2020. Luck, the father of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and former NFL Europe president, is in charge of ensuring the league does not suffer the same fate.
“I think what will set us apart from other failed sport leagues will be really two things: time and money,” he told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM, pointing to two factors that weren’t there for the XFL’s first attempt. “Because of that … I think we have a pretty good shot at making this league work, I really do.”
All the XFL needs is Vince McMahon
The hope is that time and money will not only help the league avoid the problems that plagued it back in 2001, but also help to avoid the same demise that brought the AAF to a halt after the league reportedly had to seek emergency funding from an outside investor just to meet payroll in its second week of play.
Instead, McMahon has been selling off WWE shares to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the XFL through a separate holding company. His latest round of selling alone netted more than $270 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The funding, Luck said, has allowed the league to take its time installing quality coaches for the league’s eight teams and helped avoid having to rush to name host cities for the inaugural season. So far, five of eight coaches have been named, including former long-time University of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops, who will coach the XFL team based in Dallas.
“This is Vince's really personal fortune that he's putting up to support football and that I think at the end of the day, might be the single most important difference that we have with any of the other leagues, whether it's the AAF, or the old USFL, or the Old World League,” Luck said, relishing that he might not be financially constrained in the same way the AAF co-founders were. “You need both the football side as well as the business side to work hand-in-hand, and I just don't think they gave themselves enough time to prepare the business side.”
Don’t expect gimmicky XFL games
As for the football side, however, Luck complimented the AAF on instituting a lot of changes that, in his mind, improve upon the game offered by the NFL. The XFL will similarly look to speed up the tempo of the game, and add scoring chances, including a potential nine-point touchdown. The new XFL, however, will not feature rules of its more dangerous past, such as the banning of all fair catches without giving players at least a five-yard halo.
Gimmicks like that, Luck said, are less necessary now than they were in 2001 since the overall level of play has improved since then.
“The game of football at the professional level and college level is being played at an all time high,” he said. “It's remarkable how good the athletes in the NFL, or [how] entertaining those games are. So I'm not sure there's that much that we really have to innovate, because it's obvious that Americans love football as long as it's played well.”
The league is expected to announce the three remaining coaching vacancies in the coming weeks, along with more information on the broadcasting partners that will carry XFL games.
“We will announce some very powerful broadcast partners over the next couple of weeks,” Luck said. “Giving folks an easy, simple way to watch games on the weekend is going to be most helpful to us as we grow.”