Last summer, the NCAA prevented University of Central Florida Kicker Donald De La Haye from having (and monetizing) a YouTube channel, stating he was not allowed to monetize his own likeness. A similar case occurred with a college wrestler who was forced to make music under an alias.
Meanwhile, the college football sports industrial complex is worth billions of dollars, none of which is given to athletes. Instead they’re ‘paid’ in Scholarships.
So, when the Big Baller himself, LaVar Ball, announced his intentions to start the Junior Basketball Association in December of 2017; offering an alternate path for college-aged ball players, it perked up a few ears. “This is giving guys a chance to get a jump start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts; and we’re going to pay them, because someone has to pay these kids.” He said at the time.
The idea was, instead of joining a college program for a year – and being forced into the restrictive nature of NCAA regulations that allow just about everyone *but* the actual player to exploit his or her image – folks could hop over to Ball’s league, get seen, get coached, make money, and eventually jump to the NBA. And if they don’t make it, or come down with an injury, well, at least, they would have made some money beforehand.
Enter Professional American Football, The XFL and a looming threat of serious injury and CTE. While just about all sports are taxing to the body, it’s safe to safe Football is certainly the worst in that regard. Heavily muscled men slamming into each-other as hard as they can for 60 minutes is a recipe for chronic injury and pain. NCAA football players aren’t paid and could lose their scholarship if hurt, for what it is worth.
And while the NBA already has its farm system in the G-League, American Football, really doesn’t outside of college. So, if Vince McMahon were keen to take LaVar ball’s approach, creating a sort of Junior Football League, the XFL could very well find success. By paying players to hone their skills in a way that maximizes exposure and playtime, the XFL might just turn into something worth following.
Lets talk money: The original XFL’s compensation structure was interesting; as all players were paid the same base salary based on position, then bonuses for winning games. A QB would get 5k a game, then an additional $2500 for each game won. Not a *great* salary, but certainly better than what the NCAA offers to freshmen with an eye toward pro ball, that’s for sure. The XFL website states players will be paid – and paid more to win, so it’s likely something original to the XFL’s initial pay structure will return – potentially providing an alternate route, and alternate way, for folks to make money playing football.
But why the XFL and not, say, Canada’s Football League if you’re an eager baller not-at-all interested in academics? The CFL’s a pro league with thousands of fans and no minimum age (The NFL requires you be three years removed from High School) – why not make some money there? Worked for Flutie. Worked for Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, right? Well, in addition to a lack of national exposure on American television, Canadian football is…weird. The Canadian Football field is wider, Canadian Teams play with 12 men on the field as opposed to 11, and players don’t need to be ‘set’ before snapping the ball when in motion. So if you’re a rookie making your way to the CFL, there’s a variety of new rules and procedures you need to learn fast, else be a bust with literally zero prospects.
The transition from college to ‘pro’ ball in America is hard enough, but most of the rule changes there are little things like the clock not stopping after a first down, needing both feet in bounds, etc. The field is the same length, a touchdown is still six points, same number of people on the field, and so on.
Much like WWE’s incredibly exciting developmental system, NXT, the joy of the XFL could be in watching up-and-comers truly shine in American style football. Also like NXT, XFL should hopefully endeavor to mimic the style of play used in the NFL with a little something extra. The XFL touts itself as ‘simpler’ – but if the braintrust is smart, it won’t eliminate or change rules to the point that going from one league to the other would be a shock to the system; but rather focus on things the NFL might be keen to implement. Try new things.
…It’d help if they played nice with the NFL, which they absolutely didn’t do last time. That said,Lets all remember where Instant Replay came from, after all. And Sky Cams. And Sideline Interviews. And player introductions.
Quite a lot of good ideas came from that failure of a league.
But good ideas only get you so far. Success requires vision, capital, and drive. Capital isn’t a problem, McMahon’s invested 100 Million of his own money into the league. Drive, he clearly has. Vision? That’s the tricky part.
For better or worse you can’t help but feel McMahon is desperate to cement his legacy outside of WWE. The World Body Building Federation, the first Stab at the XFL, both failed. As did his investment in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. The man seems to have a desire to prove he isn’t a billionaire carny peddling his wares to secret rednecks world-wide via a ‘fake’ sport. He wants the legitimacy the WWE never afforded him. That’s the kind of chip on your shoulder that can change the world, or doom you forever.
At 72 years old, to invest and spearhead a whole new league, a whole new endeavor, and expect to find success could be considered crazy.