by Ben Jansen
In the last 15 years, the Super Bowl has meant that football season is over until August, and there would be no real games for hundreds of days. But this year, Super Bowl LIV is the last professional football game until… Feb. 8? It has been two years since Vince McMahon, the billionaire CEO known for his TV villain persona, announced he would reincarnate his defunct football venture, the Extreme Football League (XFL). The league is set to make its debut this Saturday, Feb. 8.
The XFL is a league made up of eight teams, with roster sizes comparable to the National Football League (NFL) rosters. However, this is where the similarities stop. The XFL has made plenty of news with their league’s new rule changes that make the game more “Xtreme.” These rule changes are not like the league in 2001, which was known for having a gimmick of hard hitting violence such as Jeff Brohm, former NFL players and Purdue University football coach, stating in an interview that he wanted to play through his concussion, or the iconic “He Hate Me jersey”. These current rule changes make the game more interesting, with less boring plays throughout the game.
The rule changes range from new kickoff and punt formations, extra points being scrimmage plays with bonus points for certain distances, overtimes that resemble soccer and hockey penalty shootouts, a running clock with stoppages only in the final two minutes of the half, and two timeouts per half instead of three. However, McMahon wants there to be no mistakes made, despite all these strange changes, “one thing we are not is a developmental league for the NFL,” the league’s founder said on his telecast announcing he was rebooting the organization.
Despite the average player in the league making around $55,000 dollars a season, the league does not expect its players to finish one season and then leave for greener pastures. The players themselves are certainly no scrubs either, as the league boasts many players with NFL talent and experience. Players like quarterback, Cardale Jones, who led Ohio State to a College Football Playoff Championship, and quarterback, Connor Cook, who has an NFL playoff start to his name, among other players with NFL games and starts.
One player who doesn’t have much NFL experience but could burst onto the scene in the XFL is former University of South Florida running back, Quinton Flowers. Flowers returns to Raymond James Stadium for the season, as he was drafted by the local Tampa Bay Vipers, who share the same stadium with South Florida and the Buccaneers. Flowers is ready to return to the area where he was the 2016 American Athletic Conference (AAC) player of the year, with hopes to be just as exciting as he was then.
“I’d like to just give the fans something to talk about, give Tampa something to talk about, and just have fun,” Flowers told reporters after a practice on Tuesday, Jan 28.
The Vipers make their home debut on Saturday, Feb 22 at Raymond James Stadium with tickets as low as $20. With ticket prices this low, it may seem like the XFL is bound to fail as it once did. However this time the XFL has a major Television deal, with every game televising on the ESPN or Fox networks, just like the NFL. This deal is why many people believe the league can have success.
“I think it will do okay. I don’t see it flourishing but it will probably stay afloat,” said University of Tampa sophomore sport management major, Mike Pascento.
If you watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 “This was the XFL”, this league will not look similar to what you expect. It will be more PG than the rated R it once was, and it will be quality football. Not everyone will be a massive fan, but it will be enough to hold us over for a handful of weeks after the Super Bowl.
Ben Jansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org