XFL hop­ing time to pre­pare is a ben­e­fit

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Oliver Luck has noted that there is a grave­yard full of tomb­stones for spring pro­fes­sional foot­ball leagues go­ing back more than 40 years.

That grave­yard filled a plot two months ago when the Al­liance of Amer­i­can Foot­ball folded eight weeks into its in­au­gu­ral sea­son, but the XFL com­mis­sioner thinks lessons learned from other leagues have al­ready come in handy with a re­boot of the XFL less than nine months away from kick­ing off.

“We rec­og­nize it is a chal­lenge. Spring foot­ball has seen a num­ber of failed ven­tures over the years,” Luck said. “You need a solid busi­ness plan, cap­i­tal com­mit­ments, good part­ners across the board and time. We’re in a pretty good po­si­tion to come out of the gates stronger.”

The XFL’s first games on Feb. 8, 2020, will come more than two years af­ter Vince McMa­hon an­nounced in Jan­uary of 2018 that he was bring­ing the league back. Be­sides time, McMa­hon has given the league plenty of resources.

McMa­hon has in­vested nearly $400 mil­lion in the XFL with three sales of his shares in World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment the past 16 months. He made his big­gest in­vest­ment on March 27, sell­ing 3.2 mil­lion shares that were worth ap­prox­i­mately $272 mil­lion.

The last ver­sion of the XFL in 2001 was a joint ven­ture be­tween WWE and NBC. McMa­hon has started a sep­a­rate com­pany — Al­pha En­ter­tain­ment — to op­er­ate XFL 2.0.

While McMa­hon was the face of the league the first time around, he has let oth­ers run with the ball dur­ing this launch. When the eight teams were an­nounced last De­cem­ber, McMa­hon gave a short set of re­marks be­fore hand­ing the rest of the pro­ceed­ings to Luck, who has an es­tab­lished his­tory as a sports ex­ec­u­tive.

Luck came to the XFL from an ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship po­si­tion at the NCAA. He pre­vi­ously was West Vir­ginia’s ath­letic di­rec­tor, helped launch Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s Houston Dy­namo and was NFL Europe’s pres­i­dent.

“That’s a pur­pose­ful and in­ten­tional de­ci­sion,” Luck said of McMa­hon. “When I first started talk­ing to Vince, which was al­most a year ago, he made it very clear that he was run­ning WWE and wanted a foot­ball face out there.”

Even with McMa­hon’s stock sales, a Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion fil­ing shows that he still holds stock that rep­re­sents ap­prox­i­mately 80.1% of WWE’s to­tal vot­ing power.

Ear­lier this week the XFL an­nounced mul­ti­year con­tracts with Fox and ESPN to tele­vise games which came on the heels of a deal with El­e­vate Sports Ven­tures to man­age ticket sales. The San Fran­cisco 49ers are one of El­e­vate’s stake­hold­ers.

Only two AAF teams were in NFL mar­kets, whereas St. Louis is the only XFL team in a mar­ket that doesn’t have an NFL team. Los An­ge­les and New York, which had XFL teams the first time around, are back and are joined by Dal­las, Houston, Seat­tle, Tampa Bay and Wash­ing­ton.

Jeffrey Pollack, the XFL’s pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, said be­ing in es­tab­lished foot­ball mar­kets is the smart thing to do. Pollack also added that he could en­vi­sion it be­ing around $100 for a fam­ily of four to at­tend a game.

“In its most fun­da­men­tal form, be­ing able to go to a game is part of hav­ing more ac­cess. It is also about the game­day ex­pe­ri­ence, what our broad­cast part­ners do and our digital con­tent,” he said.

With kick­off less than nine months away, coaches have been named in all but one city and team pres­i­dents are in place in four mar­kets. Coaches in­clude Bob Stoops in Dal­las, Marc Trest­man in Tampa and Jim Zorn in Seat­tle.

Coaches are also their own gen­eral man­ager, which was an im­por­tant sell­ing point for Win­ston Moss, who was named Los An­ge­les’ coach on Tues­day.

“I’m go­ing to shop, cook them and serve them up,” Moss said.

The league has al­ready done some rules ex­per­i­ments with a spring league in Austin, Texas, and will have an­other de­vel­op­ment ses­sion later this spring in Cal­i­for­nia. Luck said there is an em­pha­sis on a crisper pace to games, but didn’t re­veal much more about pro­posed changes.

One thing that Luck did ad­mit though is that there will be kick­offs in the XFL, which the Al­liance did not have. Pos­ses­sions in the AAF started at the 25 yard line fol­low­ing a score.

“We are try­ing to ad­dress issues that fans have stated, like miss­ing the kick­off re­turn. We want to layer deeper and make safer but still keep it in the game,” he said.

Luck said the league will start sign­ing play­ers next month with mini camps start­ing in Novem­ber. Luck added that the big­gest fo­cus will be on find­ing tal­ented quar­ter­backs, which he felt the AAF strug­gled at do­ing.

“When I looked at their strat­egy of pay­ing every­body the same they un­der­paid at the top of their ros­ter and over­paid at the bottom quite hon­estly,” he said. “They had me­diocre, I would say pedes­trian quar­ter­backs at best and part of it was not will­ing to put more on the ta­ble. There are very good, young quar­ter­backs avail­able. We can do a more se­lec­tive job at the top of our ros­ter and get bet­ter play­ers.”

While the league has al­ready checked a lot off its to-do list, there still is plenty to go in the re­main­ing nine months. First im­pres­sions are vi­tal, but Pollack also said getting a foun­da­tion built for the long haul is just as im­por­tant.

“We’ve got a big lift. Suc­cess can not be mea­sured in a sea­son or two, but we feel good about our prospects,” he said. “The in­gre­di­ents are there. We feel good about where we are headed.” At stake: The series:

Last meet­ing: The Bull­dogs beat the Hoyas 13-8 in 2001, as Brian Dou­glass scored three goals.

Com­par­ing num­bers: Yale is av­er­ag­ing 15.2 goals per game, sec­ond in Di­vi­sion I, Ge­orge­town (14) is 18th in D-I; Yale has al­lowed 10.13 goals (18th in the coun­try) while Ge­orge­town has al­lowed 10.65 goals (30th).

Polling: Yale is ranked fourth in the In­side Lacrosse Me­dia Poll, Ge­orge­town is 13th.

About Yale: The de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion Bull­dogs are com­ing off a 12-11 loss to Penn in the Ivy League cham­pi­onship game, ending a six-game win streak. Yale’s three losses have all been one-goal de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing two in over­time. This is Yale’s fifth con­sec­u­tive NCAA tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance. About Ge­orge­town: The Hoyas are com­ing off a 12-8 win over Den­ver in the Big East cham­pi­onship game and have won five in a row. Ge­orge­town is mak­ing its 13th NCAA tour­na­ment ap­pear­ance. Last year, the Hoyas lost to Johns Hop­kins 10-9 in over­time in the first round of the tour­na­ment.

Twin­ning: The sub­plot of this matchup is the meet­ing of twin broth­ers Matt and Chris Bran­dau. Matt is a fresh­man for Yale and notched 35 goals this sea­son. Chris is a fresh­man goalie for Ge­orge­town, ap­pear­ing in eight games this sea­son. The broth­ers were team­mates at Boys Latin School in Mary­land. CT Con­nec­tions: Ge­orge­town has three state na­tives on its ros­ter — Justin Me­ich­ner of New Canaan, Jack Stephenson of Green­wich, and Chris Gatt of Nor­walk.

Play­ers to watch: Yale’s lead­ing scorer is Jack­son Mor­rill (36 goals, 40 as­sists). Ju­nior T.D. Ier­lan, who leads the coun­try in face-off win percentage (.791) and ground balls (254), is a fi­nal­ist for the Te­waara­ton Award, given to the most out­stand­ing college lacrosse player. … Ge­orge­town’s lead­ing scorer is Jake Car­raway (53 goals, 30 as­sists). James Reilly has won 203 of 401 face-offs (50.6 per­cent) and is sec­ond on the team in ground balls (95).

Tony Gu­tier­rez / As­so­ci­ated Press

Bob Stoops makes com­ments af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced as the new head coach and gen­eral man­ager of the XFL Dal­las foot­ball team dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ar­ling­ton, Texas, on Feb. 7.

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