Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The XFL comes to Houston

More specifically, the newest incarnation of Vince McMahon's spring football league is coming to the University of Houston:
TDECU Stadium at the University of Houston will be the home field for Houston’s team in the XFL, the spring football league owned by WWE chairman Vince McMahon that will begin play in 2020, the league announced Wednesday. 
Joining Houston among the eight XFL charter cities are teams in Dallas-Fort Worth, playing at Arlington’s Globe Life Stadium, plus Los Angeles (StubHub Center), New York-New Jersey (MetLife Stadium), St. Louis (The Dome at America’s Center), Seattle (CenturyLink Field), Tampa (Raymond James Stadium) and Washington, D.C. (Audi Field). 
Houston will be in the XFL's Western Division with Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Seattle. New York, Tampa, St. Louis and Washington will comprise the Eastern Division. Teams will play a 10-game regular season, followed by two semifinals and a championship game.
Last January I noted that the wrestling mogul wanted to resurrect his football league, whose 2001 effort folded after a single season due to poor TV ratings; I also expressed skepticism that this attempt at a springtime football league would be any more successful than his previous effort, or the USFL, or the World League/NFL Europe. However, I'm willing to give him a benefit of the doubt, especially because one of his teams will be playing at, and paying rent to, the University of Houston. I might even attend some games.

I'm also willing to give McMahon the benefit of a doubt because his new league - which will be overseen by former Houston Oilers quarterback and West Virginia Athletics Director Oliver Luck - will be completely different than the gimmicky, hyper-masculine 2001 version:
The original XFL positioned itself as an alternative to the staid NFL, with nicknames (remember He Hate Me?) on the backs of jerseys and a no-fair catch rule on punts. But in this more safety-aware era of football, Luck indicated the league is looking into modifying the action on punts, kickoffs and extra points, although he didn’t go into any specifics on what those plans might be.
Luck also said the league wants to tweak some rules and use a shorter play clock in the hopes of having games that clock in under three hours.
“Improving player safety is a top priority of ours,” Luck said. “We are establishing an extensive health and wellness program based on input from an accomplished medical professional board with folks who are experts in the areas of neuroscience, orthopedics and mental health.”
Luck also made it apparent that the new XFL wants to “complement” the NFL as opposed to competing with it.
“Our research indicated that fans want more football,” he said, “and we intend to provide it to them,” adding that the startup league has had “productive meetings and conversations” with the NFL. 
The new league, he said, will be “family friendly.”
“We want the XFL to be affordable for families,” said Luck, adding the league intends to set ticket prices that are “significantly lower than other major sports.” 
Another difference: unlike the 2001 XFL, which focused heavily on markets that did not have NFL franchises - Birmingham, Las Vegas, Memphis, Orlando; even Los Angeles had no NFL team at the time - the new XFL will locate all its teams in cities that already have (or recently have had, in the case of St. Louis) an NFL presence. This indicates that the XFL wants to rely on established football markets for its fanbase, rather than the mix of smaller, supposedly "football-starved" markets and wrestling fans that the 2001 league was apparently intended to appeal to.

Franchise nicknames and logos will be unveiled at a later date. I don't suppose anybody's thought about seeing who owns the rights to the name and logo of Houston's old USFL team, but, since springtime football is coming back to Houston, why not bring back the Gamblers?!

The University of Houston's announcement is here. Kuff has some thoughts of his own. We'll see where this goes and how long it lasts.

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