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XFL's mantra is 'football re-imagined' in its latest incarnation

The eight-team XFL will return in February 2020, have a team based at MetLife Stadium and have little in common with the original league.

Vince McMahon at the WWE Hall of Fame

Vince McMahon at the WWE Hall of Fame Induction at Madison Square Garden on April 6, 2013. Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

At last, there is a pro football team based at MetLife Stadium that does not have a losing record, and is certain to maintain its unblemished record for the next 14 months.

The reincarnated, rebooted, re-imagined XFL announced on Wednesday that one of the eight franchises for its inaugural season of 2020 will play in East Rutherford, New Jersey – name, coach and players to be revealed at a later date.

Commissioner Oliver Luck delivered the news at a media event at the stadium that also featured league founder Vince McMahon, the pro wrestling impresario behind the original XFL in 2001.

But this version will have little to nothing in common with the infamous original, which emphasized sex and violence and neglected the quality of the football.

This time, the league is committed to good football, with a focus on streamlining the game compared with the NFL version, and to a family-friendly atmosphere and player safety.

McMahon noted how much the game and society have changed since 2001 but added, “What has not changed is the love of football.”

That is what the XFL is counting on. Not only will it compete against other sports and entertainment options, it will compete against another new winter/spring league, the Alliance of American Football, which is launching a full year earlier.

That league was co-founded by Charlie Ebersol, whose father Dick, then an NBC executive, partnered with McMahon on the original XFL.

Luck declined to comment on the AAF, beyond saying, “I would say it’s a good time for football in this country.”

Seven of the XFL’s eight markets are ones in which the NFL plays, and the other, St. Louis, was a longtime NFL city. Luck said that was intentional.

Rather than aim for mid-sized, non-NFL cities – six of the eight AAF teams are in non-NFL markets – the XFL wants to be where the most people are, not to mention potential future major-market media partners.

The other six markets for Year One are Washington, D.C., Tampa, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Seattle, with a mix of NFL and non-NFL stadiums planned.

The eight teams, all owned by the league, will begin naming coaches (who also will serve as general managers) and players, especially quarterbacks, soon. Rosters will be filled out largely by players cut from NFL rosters in late summer.

Luck said teams will have a salary cap and four tiers of players, with the highest level – primarily quarterbacks – earning around $300,000. Players will sign one-year deals, offering flexibility to pursue NFL opportunities after each season.

The idea is not to compete with the NFL, or to be a developmental league, but rather to keep fans engaged after the Super Bowl, and to experiment with ways to speed up the game.

They include a shorter play clock, limited timeouts and simplified rules. The official mantra is “football re-imagined.”

Luck said the league has budgeted for 20,000 paid admissions per game but added, “I think we can do much better than that in many, if not most, of our markets.”

There will be 10 regular-season games, followed by semifinals and a championship game. It begins the weekend after the Super Bowl, on Feb. 8-9, 2020.

“The quality of football is our No. 1 priority,” Luck said, “and we’re doing everything possible to get that right, and we will.”

Asked if he might have a handshake agreement with his son, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, to join the league after he retires from the NFL, the elder Luck said, “Uh, no.”

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