Evaluating the Success of the XFL’s Inaugural Season


Joseph Frescott, Sports Editor

As most sports fans are probably aware of, the XFL made its return in 2020. Upon hearing this news, many fans were skeptical about whether Vince McMann’s alternate football league would be worthwhile, as they still had the horrible memories from its first season back in 2001. However, with completely new rules, teams, and broadcasting, this shortened inaugural season had its ups and downs. 

The biggest change that the XFL made was the tweaking of the rules and broadcasting. In its first try back in 2001, the XFL attempted to be an ”entertaining” mix between the WWE and football. As everyone saw, this concept simply didn’t work and made for a poor product. In this new season, the XFL decided to go create a more traditional football product. They focused on making the game more exciting; promoting lots of scoring and gambling through the new rules. They hoped that this would allow fans to enjoy the games, despite the lack of talent that some of these teams had. As for the broadcasting, rather than going with WWE personalities, they created a reputable television presence, by hiring solidified sportscasters and reaching partnerships with ESPN and Fox sports. This combination of new rules and better broadcasting was the first step in the right direction for this new league. 

When the season kicked off the week after the Super Bowl, it was clear to fans early on that this league could be a success. Fans were intrigued to watch former college stars and NFL players such as Landry Jones, Antonio Callaway, and Cardale Jones take the field. With many of these games being close and competitive, it came as no surprise when the XFL actually found success in TV ratings and attendance. Through five weeks, the total ticket sales were 362,515 and average viewership was around 1.5 million. Both of these numbers blew out the AAF, which was another football league that failed back in 2019. Based on this, one could argue that this league was really successful. 

Now that the season is over and NFL free agency has begun, it is clear that one of the best aspects of this league was its ability to create opportunities for NFL hopefuls. Former undrafted players like QB PJ Walker and his favorite target WR Cam Philips dominated the league, and secured themselves a spot on an NFL roster because of it. As of now, 4 players have signed to NFL teams. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot, free agency has just begun, so expect many more players to get a shot at making an NFL roster. 

With the league being canceled five weeks in due to the coronavirus fears, it is hard to determine whether this league was truly as successful as the numbers show. Although both the ticket sales and TV ratings were generally solid, as you can expect with a new sports league, it’s hard for sports and football fans to get engaged in your product. Despite this, no one can doubt that this league was successful in its ability to create opportunities for NFL hopefuls. In my opinion, as long as they can continue to keep this going, I believe that the XFL can be successful in providing players with second chances at the NFL, while also giving football fans some exciting offseason football.