Photo by Keith Gillett
The recently reestablished XFL is about to enter its sixth week of the regular season. So far it has fully exceeded expectations, consistently being the top-rated sports broadcast of the weekend, beating out established leagues like the NBA and the MLS. Assuming the XFL can keep this momentum going, America might have finally found its spring-time football fix.
Unlike some of its predecessors, the XFL isn’t just a carbon copy of the NFL when it comes to the rulebook. League officials spent the better part of 2019 designing and testing new rules to make the game of football faster, more exciting and safer. This has led many in the media to say that the XFL will likely be used as a testing ground for potential developments to the NFL game. This isn’t without precedent as many of the defining features of the XFL’s original run eventually made their way in the NFL, most notably the implementation of the sky-cam.
Looking past the evolution of the game, the XFL also provides a more short-term benefit to the world of football: the opportunity for fringe NFL roster-members to gain another shot in the big leagues. Prior to the XFL there were little to no options for a player to prove their worth after missing out on an NFL roster spot. Previously these players would have to vie for one of the few spots reserved for foreign players in the Canadian Football League or play football part-time for one of the few remaining indoor leagues. Now, the XFL offers the opportunity to play professional football for a full-time salary for more than 450 young players across the country.
It is only a matter of time until we see many of the XFL’s emerging young stars jump to the NFL. One of the likely candidates to make it onto an NFL roster next season is St. Louis Battlehawks safety Kenny Robinson. Robinson was a standout at West Virginia during his first two seasons, garnering All-Conference honors, but was deemed academically ineligible to compete in what would likely be his final season before going pro. Instead of entering the NCAA transfer portal, Robinson opted to enter the XFL draft pool, in part to help pay for his mother’s cancer treatment. This decision made Robinson the first and only player to opt-out of their college eligibility to play in the XFL.
With founder Vince McMahon selling $272 million in WWE shares, the XFL has enough capital to run for at least three seasons. As long as the league manages to create its own stars and develop a relationship with the NFL, they could etch a permanent spot in the American sports cycle.