Tampa Bay’s XFL football team has filled a key role in its front office, tapping local sports marketing executive Josh Bullock to be its president.
The Westchase resident comes to the XFL from the University of South Florida, where he had been the senior associate director of athletics and the senior director of development since March 2018. Before USF, Bullock, 46, had been the Tampa Bay Rays’ vice president of corporate partnerships for more than seven years.
An official announcement could come as soon as today. (UPDATE, 10 a.m.: The XFL has announced it has hired Bullock.)
The eight-team league, backed by World Wrestling Entertainment promoter Vince McMahon, is scheduled to begin play in February, one week after Super Bowl LIV. The Tampa Bay team, which does not yet have a name, will play its home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The XFL will broadcast games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox and FS1.
Bullock told the Tampa Bay Times he wasn’t looking to leave USF, but he was drawn to the uniqueness of the XFL job. He’ll oversee the team’s business operations (e.g., ticket sales, corporate partnerships and marketing and communications) and fan engagement.
“Opportunities like this just don’t happen in sports, to be part of building a professional sports franchise, to come in at the ground floor and be able to roll up your sleeves and really have impact,” he said. “There’s so many advantages to doing it this way, where your voice can be heard. There’s not a whole lot of pre-existing rules and regulations. There’s very little baggage to kind of sort through to get something going.”
Though the XFL maintains that there’s an audience for spring football, there’s no shortage of failed ventures. Two months ago, the Alliance of American Football ceased operations eight weeks into its 10-week inaugural season. The loss of the AAF, however, could be the XFL’s gain.
“Them ceasing operations when they did, it does in a way clear a path in regards to players being available or its not as much of maybe a diluted product where fans are choosing between one league or the other,” Bullock said. “We would have gone down the path of both playing games at the same time, so I think it does clear the way a little bit just for focus during that time of year. That’s going to be the exciting piece — as soon as the Super Bowl is over, we’re going to ramp up and be really the only football product available.”
Of course, this isn’t McMahon’s first foray into spring football. The 2001 launch of the XFL was so disastrous that he later called it a “colossal failure.” When considering the job, Bullock wanted to be sure that the rebooted XFL would be better than and different from the XFL of 19 years ago.
“A lot of my questions were about, ‘What’s the product going to be like? What’s the mission statement?” he said. “Because I initially thought about He Hate Me and the initial launch in 2001, so my gut reaction when the opportunity came to me, it was negative because I didn’t like the initial product. I think the people involved were very open to say, ‘That is over and done. It’s gone. This is completely different.’”
Winning over XFL skeptics is a tall order in itself, but Tampa Bay’s attendance issues — the NFL’s Buccaneers ranked 30th last season in average attendance and MLB’s Rays rank 29th this season — make Bullock’s task especially daunting.
“I am no stranger to battling attendance issues in this market, selling sponsorships — corporate sponsorships for the Rays for seven years being last in the league in attendance was a challenge,” he said. “But I think that really helped me hone skills of being creative and selling and marketing in ways that appeal to everyone.”
The XFL isn’t expecting to be an overnight success, Bullock said.
“One of the things I was really excited about was that we get that we’re starting from scratch, so there isn’t an expectation right now to sell out Raymond James Stadium,” he said. “We’ve got the timeline and resources from Vince McMahon to take our time and be slow and steady and grow it the right way over time.”
Coaching staff taking shape
Coach and general manager Marc Trestman has moved quickly to fill his staff, recruiting Canadian Football League assistant coach Jaime Elizondo to be his offensive coordinator and former Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville to be his defensive coordinator.
Among Trestman’s other hires: Josh Hinch (director of player personnel), Jonathan Himebauch (offensive line coach), Josh Neiswander (quarterbacks coach), Josh Moore (running backs coach), Lawrence Hill (defensive line coach), Michael Archer (linebackers coach), William Fields (defensive backs coach), Frank Gansz Jr. (special teams coach), Darren Krein (strength and conditioning coach), Justin Hickman (analytics/scouting manager), Billy Parker (football analyst), Bradley Anderson (team equipment manager), Ronald Selesky (football operations manager) and Dave Levy (team video manager).
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected]. Follow @tometrics.