The XFL season is still eight months away, but the league has been busy hosting showcase events that serve as regional combines for players. The process will continue this weekend with a focus on HBCU schools, with the participation of Jackson State coach Deion Sanders. League co-owners Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia will be among the XFL executives on hand.
The XFL will employ an early-spring schedule, starting the week after the Super Bowl and concluding at the end of April, meaning it will not compete simultaneously with the USFL, which recently completed its season and confirmed that plans for a second season are underway.
Against that backdrop, let’s reset what we know about the XFL, version 3.0 following previous incarnations in 2001 and 2020, with its kickoff set for Feb. 18, 2023.
The league plans to announce its eight teams and venues by the end of this month
The league owns all intellectual property established by XFL 2.0, which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020 and was sold for $15 million to Garcia, Johnson and RedBird Capital Partners in August 2020. But in some cases, trademarks have had to be reestablished and venue leases need to be negotiated.
That process will likely prompt the league to shift some of its 2020 locations. But industry sources expect the cities that embraced the 2020 teams — especially St. Louis, Seattle and Washington, D.C. — to remain in place. Games will again be played in a mix of NFL, MLS and smaller college stadiums.
It’s possible there will be a central practice location for all eight teams
XFL 2.0 teams practiced and played in their home markets. Had the league endured through the pandemic, plans were underway for a one-venue “bubble” structure in the spring of 2021. For the XFL 3.0, industry sources have suggested a likely combination of those approaches in 2023.
Under that plan, all eight teams would practice in one city and then travel for games as warranted. Based on social media videos of early league meetings, that central location could be in the Dallas area.
All eight head coaches and personnel directors, and many key assistants, have been hired
On-field leadership will be a mix of XFL 2.0 veterans and newcomers. The list includes former NFL head coaches Wade Phillips and Jim Haslett, as well as longtime Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops, who served a similar role for the XFL’s Dallas Renegades in 2020. The remainder of the coaches are all former NFL players: Terrell Buckley, Hines Ward, Rod Woodson, Reggie Barlow and Anthony Becht.
The most prominent assistant coach hired to this point is Gregg Williams, who will serve as defensive coordinator under Barlow. Four of the team personnel directors worked with the XFL in 2020: Randy Mueller, Joey Clinkscales, Dave Boller and Will Lewis.
Owners have taken public roles but have built out an extensive league office
Garcia and Johnson have done almost all of the publicity for the league thus far, and social media videos have shown them addressing players at showcase events. Johnson is by far the league’s most marketable asset.
On a day-to-day basis, however, the league will be led by president Russ Brandon, a former Buffalo Bills executive. Brandon and Garcia, who is the league’s chairwoman, have filled more than a dozen senior-level positions across business and football platforms.
NFL veterans Marc Ross (executive vice president), Doug Whaley (senior vice president) and Dean Blandino (vice president) are the top football executives. Whaley and Blandino were also part of the XFL 2.0’s leadership group.
All 43 XFL games will be televised and/or streamed on a Disney platform
The league plans 10 regular-season games per team, followed by three postseason games. All will be televised by ABC, ESPN or FX, according to an exclusive agreement the sides announced in May. Streaming plans will be announced at a later date.
The XFL is not merging with the CFL
The XFL spent three months in 2021 discussing a possible collaboration with the Canadian Football League to extend its global reach. The sides ultimately tabled those discussions, but the timing forced the XFL to push its return to the field back from 2022 to 2023.
The XFL has announced some other collaborations, though
In February, the league announced it will work with the NFL to create innovation programs and protect the health of players. At the time, Brandon said he hoped the league could serve as a “petri dish” for the NFL to experiment with proposed rules, test new equipment and develop prospective officials and coaches.
In April, the XFL agreed to terms on a partnership with the NFL Alumni Academy to develop future players. All players who participate in the program will be given an opt-in contract to join the XFL in 2023.
The XFL has avoided direct talk about competition with the USFL, but …
… Ross and Whaley did hold a virtual meeting in April with agents to pitch them on their plans for 2023 and beyond. During the meeting, they said the XFL would offer higher salaries and better benefits than the USFL.
The USFL pushed its players to sign two-year deals in 2022, with an eye toward keeping them away from the XFL in 2023. But as the XFL starts assembling rosters this fall, it will get first crack at players who were cut from NFL training camps.