The XFL, version 2.0: Bigger and bolder with new faces in new places
So, we meet again...or is it what's old is new again?
In just a few months we will officially welcome the XFL (yes, it's still around) when the reinvented, alternative football league brings late winter/early spring professional football to the masses.
At a July 25 kickoff event held at the Texas Live complex in suburban Dallas, some familiar faces brought the news of XFL 3.0 to the fore. League co-owner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his ex-wife and business partner, Dany Garcia were headliners at the event, which introduced 2023's eight franchise cities and their respective coaches.
Garcia and Johnson invested heavily in the spring football league which like a lot of others had multiple false starts due to COVID. XFL 2.0's kickoff is now locked in for 2023 with ESPN as their primary broadcast partner.
The eight markets were no real surprises, though a few cities projected to have franchises will no longer be on the original eight team list.
Beginning in Feb. 2023, three teams will play in Texas: San Antonio, Arlington, and Houston. With Las Vegas, St. Louis and Seattle also coming into the fold, it leaves Orlando and Washington D.C. as the only to squads to be located east of the Mississippi River.
The league was apparently very excited about the support and outstanding fan engagement in St. Louis. Led by former NFL Tight end, head coach and chief cheerleader Anthony Becht, St. Louis was apparently biggest franchise lock on the board. Becht has already been busy on his Twitter feed to expressing his unbridled excitement.
San Antonio is expected to bring big crowds to the AlamoDome and the Dallas Metroplex will host their team at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington. Going back to the Roughnecks, AAF Commanders, Defenders, Dragons, and Battlehawks, the league believes the core audience is already in place.
But many questions still remain. Will there be fans at Washington's Audi Field? The fans at Lumen Field had their moments in XFL 2.0 as did TDECU for Houston fans. But can Orlando repeat and draw fans liket the Apollos did in the AAF.? And Las Vegas presents a challenge and a dilemma. Having a team is great, but where will they play?
There will be no New York//New Jersey franchise this time around. Tampa will only have the Vipers as a historical footnote and the LA Wildcats will exist as a Wikipedia entry.
Enthusiasm and excitement were big hurdles in those markets, the league said they felt it best to cut their losses and move on.
However, perhaps the single biggest challenge the XFL has and will face over the next few months is finding athletes to fill up rosters.
To this point, they've held five talent evaluation camps with the purpose of scouting players to fill league rosters. Most were low key, open casting calls, but the highlight was the HBCU camp featuring Jackson State head coach Deion "Prime Time" Sanders. The HBCU tryout camp was the rare moment where lesser known players who aren’t even scouted in more “traditional” settings got their chance to shine and get noticed.
“There is great energy building within our league and there is still much more to come and I can promise it’s going to be worth the wait." Garcia said. "We have been working on fresh, new logos and uniforms, even working with some of the team names you already know, that will match the dynamic and innovative vision of our league. We see you, we hear you and your excitement fuels us to continue to bring you the absolute best. We have just under seven months until kickoff and the countdown is officially on.”
Besides Becht, the other coaches expected to roam the sidelines are several coaches who committed to the initial league reboot. Bob Stoops in Dallas, Jim Haslett in Seattle, and Wade Phillips in Houston. Adding Terrell Buckley in Orlando (with his ties to his alma mater, Florida State, to help steer talent), Hines Ward heading to San Antonio and Reggie Barlow returning to DC, along with former Steelers DB Rod Woodson entering with the Vegas franchise, gives the fledgeling league some name coaching recognition.
“We are incredibly excited to announce our cities and venues and to match each with their Head Coach, many of whom have a personal history in these new home markets,” said Russ Brandon, President. “Earlier today we wrapped up our last showcase of the summer in Arlington, with other showcases taking place in D.C. and Orlando last month. I’ve been extremely impressed with not only the turnout at all of these events, but the level of skill and talent these players exhibited. With our football operations team firing on all cylinders, I’m extremely optimistic about our future and the dynamic football we will deliver to our fans this upcoming spring.”
At this point, things are locked in and plans for the 2023 season are well underway. There's plenty of team gear and marketing opportunities abound. If late, post-Super Bowl, February football is your thing, you can explore season ticket opportunities and more.
The XFL will base their operations in Arlington, Texas and all eight teams will run their operations and training camps there. By doing that, teams--and the league streamline practice and training costs.
You can say that the league is now officially "on the clock" . The giant dry-erase board that Garcia, Johnson, Branson and others are using to prepare things is getting shorter by the day.
The XFL will hold their draft in mid-November, plans as of now have it taking place at their "Hub" in Arlington. When asked about where the draft would be held during the introductory news conference, Johnson pointed down, referencing their current location.
XFL 3.0 means more to some people than you might think. OSG Sports Special League Correspondent, Brother Marty was at the 2022 announcement with Photog/Wife/Corespondant Lil and the couple came back with a nice little story about a pare of league history. They witnessed the old public address announcer for the Dallas Desperados asking for his old job back and getting it. Right there, on the spot. It's memories like that the couple said, that last for a lot longer than just a presser.
Play it safe, everyone--OSG Sports be keeping an eye on the launch and providing occasional and possibly frequent updates.
Can you say XFL Draft Special?