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XFL 2020: As the relaunch nears, answers to your burning questions

When will we learn the team names? See the uniforms? When’s the draft?
Clinton Lynch, who was a running back for Georgia Tech from 2015 to 2018, was one of about 150 players who worked out at the XFL's Summer Showcase in June at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [XFL]
Clinton Lynch, who was a running back for Georgia Tech from 2015 to 2018, was one of about 150 players who worked out at the XFL's Summer Showcase in June at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [XFL]
Published Jul. 17
Updated Jul. 17

We’re less than seven months away from the relaunch of Vince McMahon’s XFL. Now that the league has wrapped up its Summer Showcase workouts, business is about to pick up. Soon we’ll learn the team names, and not long after that rosters will start taking shape. Have questions? We have the answers.

How will the XFL be different from the NFL?

When McMahon asked XFL commissioner Oliver Luck to reimagine the game of football, Luck considered making radical changes, including allowing offensive linemen to catch passes, widening the field and reducing the number of players on the field to 10 on each team.

“There’s all kinds of things if you’re sitting in a room and get creative that you can do,” Luck said, “but we also wanted the consumers, our fans, to say, ‘I get this. It’s 11-on-11. There are four downs. It’s just like I know it.’”

The challenge for Luck is a paradoxical one: to present a game that’s familiar yet new. Here are some of the ideas the league has tested:

• A running game clock, meaning that the clock won’t stop after incomplete passes or runs out of bounds.

• A shorter play clock between plays. In the NFL, offenses usually must execute a play every 40 seconds. In the XFL, that could be as short as 25 seconds.

• A three-point conversion. After a touchdown, offenses will have the option of trying a scrimmage play from the 10-yard line. If the play succeeds, it will be worth three points.

• Multiple forward passes behind the line of scrimmage.

• Eliminating kneel downs and increasing the potential for late-game comebacks. The kneel down itself won’t be outlawed; it just won’t make any practical sense to try it if, during the final two minutes of each half, the game clock stops after every play.

• Overtime shootouts. Each team’s offense and defense line up at opposite ends of the field and alternate attempting five two-point conversions. Yes, that’s 44 players on the field at the same time.

When will the XFL announce team names and colors?

The XFL will launch reveal its team identities this month, Luck said. It will unveil its jersey designs later in the summer, possibly in August.

Does the XFL Tampa Bay team have a headquarters?

Not yet. Team president Josh Bullock is researching potential sites.

When will the XFL start building its rosters?

With the conclusion of the Summer Showcase workouts, now comes the XFL’s most important step: player acquisition, which will occur in three phases. The first phase will be signing players who attended the showcases; in terms of talent level, those players likely will represent the bottom half of XFL rosters. The second phase will be signing unclaimed players that NFL teams cut in August; those players likely will represent the top half of rosters.

All of those players — about 600 to 700 total — will be placed into a pool for a draft, the third phase. The XFL is planning to hold its draft during the second week of October in Stamford, Conn., Luck said. Because the league is trying to fill entire rosters, its first draft will be a relatively long process and could span three days. Plans are fluid, but the XFL is considering live streaming the draft on its website.

What networks will be broadcasting XFL games?

ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1 and FS2. On most Saturdays, ABC will air a game at 2 p.m. and FOX will air a game at 5 p.m. Sunday times and channels vary a bit more, but there still will be an afternoon broadcast (usually 3 or 4 p.m.) and an early evening broadcast (usually 6 or 7 p.m.). The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, April 26 and will air on ESPN.

How long will the XFL last?

The short-term goal is at least three years. That’s the length of the agreement between Alpha Entertainment, the private entity through which McMahon is funding the XFL, and the Tampa Sports Authority, the manager and operator of Raymond James Stadium. The league has the option of extending the agreement up to two more years.

However, the three-year term is more hope than iron-clad commitment. The XFL isn’t paying to rent Raymond James Stadium, so McMahon could decide to suspend operations at any point and not face the penalties that tenants incur when they break a typical lease arrangement. So what’s in it for the TSA if it’s not collecting rent? In lieu of rent, the TSA will collect the revenue from ticket surcharges and facility fees as well as all of the revenue from food and beverage sales and parking. In other words, more people, more money.

What lessons can the XFL learn from the failures of the Alliance of American Football?

“There was no dancing on the grave or schadenfreude, if you will, from us” when the AAF shut down operations, Luck said. It was yet another reminder of the sad history of spring football: Many have seen the promise but no one as made it work, including, of course, McMahon, who tried two decades ago.

The new XFL is different from the AAF, Luck insists, pointing to two key differences: time and money. The AAF “didn’t have the time to go through the steps that you need to go through to make sure that everything’s buttoned up,” he said. For example, the AAF failed to account for a limited insurance market for startup football leagues and for Florida’s workers’ compensation laws, which don’t apply to professional athletes. That forced the Orlando Apollos to come up with an expensive workaround: hotel stays in Jacksonville and 30-minute bus rides to practices in Kingsland, Ga. The XFL has obtained coverage, through Berkley Entertainment & Sports, which is also the NFL’s insurer.

Unlike the AAF, the XFL has one capital investor: McMahon, who reportedly has sold $400 million worth of his World Wrestling Entertainment shares to fund the project. He expects to spend about $500 million in the league’s first three seasons.

“Having one capital investor who’s in it for the long haul is much different than the AAF model where it seemed like they were spending a lot of time trying to raise money,” Luck said. “That’s hard. I can focus on football and … (don’t have to worry about) making pitches to private equity folks, venture capital people.”

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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