For the U.S. Navy fighter aircraft, see Loening XFL and Bell XFL Airabonita.
Sport American football
Founded 1999
Inaugural season 2001
Ceased 2001
Owner(s) World Wrestling Federation (50%)
(WWE Properties International Inc.)[1]
NBCUniversal (50%)
No. of teams 8
Country United States
Los Angeles Xtreme

XFL, LLC was a professional American football league operated as the XFL, founded by World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) owner Vince McMahon. With eight teams (all fully owned by the league corporation) in two divisions, it was intended to be a major professional sports league complement to the offseason of the National Football League, but was unable to find an audience and ceased operation after its debut season in 2001.[2][3] The XFL was widely ridiculed; McMahon conceded that the league was a "colossal failure".[4]


Created as a 50–50 joint venture between NBCUniversal and WWF-owned subsidiary WWE Properties International, Inc.[5] under the company name "XFL, LLC", the XFL was created as a "single-entity league", meaning that the teams were not individually owned and operated franchises (as in the NFL), but that the league was operated as a single business unit. Vince McMahon's original plan was to purchase the Canadian Football League (after the CFL initially approached him about purchasing the Toronto Argonauts) and "have it migrate south,"[6] while NBC was moving ahead at the time with Time Warner to create a football league of their own.[7]

The concept of the league was first announced by league commissioner Tyler Schueck on February 3, 2000. The XFL was originally conceived to build on the success of the NFL and professional wrestling. It combined the scoring system of the NFL with the kayfabe and stunts of the WWF. It was hyped as "real" football without penalties for roughness and with fewer rules in general. The games would feature players and coaches with microphones and cameras in the huddle and in the locker rooms. Stadiums featured trash-talking public address announcers and scantily-clad cheerleaders. Instead of a pre-game coin toss, XFL officials put the ball on the ground and let a player from each team scramble for it to determine who received the kickoff option. The practice was dubbed "The Human Coin Toss" by commentators and led to the first XFL injury. Injuries would prove to be commonplace in the league, including one noted fatality, that of Troy Stark, who died during surgery to repair an injury he sustained during play.

The XFL featured extensive television coverage, with three games televised each week on NBC, UPN, and TNN. To accommodate this, it placed four of its teams in the four largest U.S. media markets: New York/New Jersey, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California, the last of which conveniently lacked an NFL franchise of its own at the time. The remaining four teams were placed in markets that had previously hosted second-tier leagues: Birmingham, Memphis, Las Vegas and Orlando. All of the XFL's markets except Las Vegas had hosted teams in the United States Football League in the 1980s; Las Vegas, along with Birmingham and Memphis, had hosted short-lived CFL teams in the 1990s.

The XFL chose unusual names for its franchises, most of which either referenced images of uncontrolled insanity (Maniax, Rage, Xtreme, Demons) or criminal activity (Enforcers [a reference to mob enforcers], Hitmen, Outlaws, and the Birmingham Blast). After outrage from Birmingham residents who noted that Birmingham had a history of notorious "blasts," including the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 and Eric Rudolph's 1998 bombing of a local abortion clinic, the XFL changed the name of the Birmingham team to the more benign "Birmingham Thunderbolts" (later shortened to "Bolts").[8]

Contrary to popular belief, the "X" in XFL did not stand for "extreme", as in "eXtreme Football League".[9] When the league was first organized in 1999, it was originally supposed to stand for "Xtreme Football League"; however, there was already a league in formation at the same time with that name, and so promoters wanted to make sure that everyone knew that the "X" did not actually stand for anything (though McMahon would comment that "if the NFL stood for the 'No Fun League', the XFL will stand for the 'extra fun league'"[10]). The other Xtreme Football League, which was also organized in 1999, merged with the Arena Football League's AF2 before ever fielding its first game.

  Eastern Division
  Western Division


Main article: 2001 XFL Draft

The only main draft for the league took place over a three-day period from October 28, 2000 to October 30, 2000. A total of 475 players were selected initially, with 65 additional players then selected in a supplemental draft on December 29, 2000.


Eastern Division

Orlando Rage
Chicago Enforcers
New York/New Jersey Hitmen
Birmingham Thunderbolts

Western Division

Los Angeles Xtreme
San Francisco Demons
Memphis Maniax
Las Vegas Outlaws

2001 season

On the field

The XFL's opening game took place on February 3, 2001, one year after the league was announced, less than one week following the NFL's Super Bowl. The first game was between the New York/New Jersey Hitmen and the Las Vegas Outlaws at Sam Boyd Stadium in Whitney, Nevada.

The league's regular season structure was set up so that each team played teams in its own division twice in the season, home and away (the same as the National Football League) and played against teams in the other division once. The season ran ten weeks, with no bye weeks.

The league's western division was far more competitive than the east, with the four teams' records ranging from 7–3 (for eventual champion Los Angeles) to 4–6 (Las Vegas, who finished last after losing its last three games to end up one game out of a playoff spot). In the East, New York and Chicago both were hampered by slow starts and ineffective starters before making personnel changes that improved their play, while Orlando, under quarterback Jeff Brohm, soared to first place, winning its first six games before Brohm suffered a career-ending injury and the team regressed (the team went 2–2 in his absence). Birmingham started the season 2–1 before a rash of injuries (and tougher competition, as its two wins were against New York and Chicago) led to the team losing the last seven games. Injuries were a major problem across the league: only three of the league's eight Opening Day starters; Los Angeles's Tommy Maddox, San Francisco's Mike Pawlawski and Memphis's Jim Druckenmiller; were still starters by the end of the season. Birmingham and Las Vegas were both on their third-string quarterbacks by the end of the ten-week season.

The top two teams in each division qualified for the playoffs. To avoid teams having to play each other three times in a season, the league set up the semifinal round of the playoffs so that the games would feature teams from opposite divisions: the east division champion (Orlando) hosted the west division runner-up (San Francisco), and likewise for the west champion and east runner-up (Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively). Los Angeles and San Francisco each won their playoff games to advance to the XFL championship.

Off the field

The opening game ended with a 19–0 victory for the Outlaws, and was watched on NBC by an estimated 14 million viewers. During the telecast, NBC switched over to the game between the Orlando Rage and the Chicago Enforcers, which was a closer contest than the blowout taking place in Las Vegas. The opening night drew a 9.5 Nielsen rating.[11]

Although the opening-week games actually delivered ratings double those of what NBC had promised advertisers (and more viewers than the 2001 Pro Bowl), the audience declined sharply to a 4.6 in just one week,[12] and eventually dropped to minuscule levels.

A further problem was that the XFL itself was the brainchild of Vince McMahon, a man who was ridiculed by mainstream sports journalists due to the stigma attached to professional wrestling as being "fake"; many journalists even jokingly speculated whether any of the league's games were rigged, although nothing of this sort was ever seriously investigated.

Even longtime NBC sportscaster Bob Costas joined in the mocking of the league. In an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in February 2001, after the league's second week of play, Costas joked: "It has to be at least a decade since I first mused out loud, 'Why doesn't somebody combine mediocre high school football with a tawdry strip club?' Finally, somebody takes my idea and runs with it." He also said about the sharp drop in the television ratings in that second week: "I have to put the right spin on this because I'm also on NBC—apparently, it went through the toilet."[13]

2001 standings

Regular season
Eastern Division
y-Orlando Rage 8 2
x-Chicago Enforcers 5 5
New York/New Jersey Hitmen 4 6
Birmingham Thunderbolts 2 8
Western Division
y-Los Angeles Xtreme 7 3
x-San Francisco Demons 5 5
Memphis Maniax 5 5
Las Vegas Outlaws 4 6

Semifinals Million Dollar Game
April 14 Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
 W1  Los Angeles 33  
 E2  Chicago 16  
April 21 – Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
     W1  Los Angeles 38
   W2  San Francisco 6
April 15 Citrus Bowl, Orlando
 E1  Orlando 25
 W2  San Francisco 26  


Statistical leaders


2001 Attendances
TeamStadiumCapacityAvg. Att.Avg.% Filled
San Francisco DemonsPacific Bell Park41,05935,00585%
New York/New Jersey HitmenGiants Stadium80,24228,30935%
Orlando RageCitrus Bowl65,43825,56339%
Los Angeles XtremeLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum92,00022,67925%
Las Vegas OutlawsSam Boyd Stadium36,80022,61861%
Memphis ManiaxLiberty Bowl Memorial Stadium62,92120,39632%
Birmingham ThunderboltsLegion Field83,09117,00220%
Chicago EnforcersSoldier Field55,70115,71028%
2001 Passing Leaders (over 100 pass attempts)
Name, TeamAttComp%YardsYDs/AttTDTD %INTINT %LongSacks/Yds LostRating
Jeff Brohm, ORL1196958.09938.3497.632.551t11/7899.9
Kevin McDougal, CHIC1348160.411688.7253.732.2568/6991.9
Casey Weldon, Birm16410262.212287.4974.35380t7/4486.6
Jim Druckenmiller, Mem19910954.814997.53136.573.54915/8986.2
Ryan Clement, LV1387856.58055.8396.542.94610/5983.2
Tommy Maddox, LA34219657.321866.39185.392.66314/9181.2
Mike Pawlawski, SF29718662.616595.59124623516/14182.6
Wally Richardson, NY/NJ1428358.58125.7264.264.233t17/10771.1
Brian Kuklick, ORL1226855.79948.1564.9108.281t7/4264.7
2001 Passing Leaders (under 100 pass attempts)
Name, TeamAttComp%YardsYDs/AttTDTD %INTINT %LongSacks/Yds LostRating
Craig Whelihan, CHIC/Mem5480.03060000120/091.7
Tim Lester, CHIC774051.95817.5545.256.568t13/6867.1
Charles Puleri, NY/NJ642945.34116.4223.123.177t4/3964.0
Marcus Crandell, Mem693347.84736.8611.422.9539/6263.3
Pat Barnes, SF803645.03794.7433.822.5345/3861.4
Corte McGuffey, NY/NJ482552.13296.850024.2545/3856.7
Mark Grieb, LV 783747.44085.2333.845.141t5/4454.9
Jay Barker, Birm653756.94256.5411.557.792t10/6449.8
Mike Cawley, LV 381744.71804.7412.625.32610/8345.9
Paul Failla, CHIC5120.051000052/1239.6
Graham Leigh, Birm974445.44995.141166.2368/6239.0
Scott Milanovich, LA9222.245500111.1390/08.3
2001 Rushing Leaders
Name, TeamAttYdsAve.LongTDs
John Avery, Chi1508005.373t5
Rod Smart, LV1465553.8313
James Bostic, Birm1535363.5562
Rashaan Salaam, Mem1145284.639t5
Derrick Clark, Orl943954.2197
Saladin McCullough, LA883844.4225
Joe Aska, NY/NJ823294.0423
Micheal Black, Orl833203.9200
LeShon Johnson, Chi722874.0416
Rashaan Shehee, LA612424.0280
Kelvin Anderson, SF532314.4391
Jim Druckenmiller, Mem312086.7360
Juan Johnson, SF331725.2190
Wally Richardson, NY/NJ261485.7240
2001 Receiving Yardage Leaders (over 175 yards)
Name, TeamRecYdsAve.LongTDs
Stepfret Williams, Birm5182816.292t2
Charles Jordan, Mem4582318.3494
Jeremaine Copeland, LA6775511.3345
Dialleo Burks, ORL3465919.481t7
Aaron Bailey, CHIC3254617.1503
Quincy Jackson, Birm4553111.836t6
Darnell McDonald, LA3445613.4398
Daryl Hobbs, Mem304191449t5
Jimmy Cunningham, SF504088.2263
Kirby Dar Dar, NY/NJ2240518.477t2
Kevin Swayne, ORL2740014.851t2
Brian Roberson, SF3639511352
Kevin Prentiss, Mem2538315.3530
Mario Bailey, ORL273791449t3
Zola Davis, NY/NJ2937813264
James Hundon, SF2835712.8340
Zechariah Lord, CHIC2030115.1460
John Avery, CHIC1729717.568t2
Yo Murphy, LV2727310.1353
Anthony DiCosmo, NY/NJ2626810.3300
Latario Rachal, LA2425410.6240
Rod Smart, LV272459.1460
Mike Furrey, LV1824213.441t1
Ed Smith, Birm251957.8161

XFL rule changes

Despite boasts by WWF promoters of a "rules-light" game and universally negative reviews from the mainstream sports media early on, the XFL played a brand of 11-man outdoor football that was recognizable, aside from the opening game sprint to determine possession and some other changes, some modified during the season. The league's coaches vetoed a proposal to eliminate in eligible receivers (allowing any player to receive a forward pass) midway through the season, on account that the change would be too radical.

Grass stadiums

The league deliberately avoided placing teams in stadiums with artificial turf, which at the time had a bad reputation both for being unsightly as well as being more hazardous to play on compared to natural turf.[14]The league's requirement for grass fields automatically ruled out the use of domed or retractable roof stadiums since no such stadium capable of accommodating a grass football field existed in the U.S. in 2001. Furthermore, every XFL field was designed identically, with no individual team branding on the field. Each end zone and 50-yard line was decorated with the XFL logo.

Most of the league's stadiums were football-specific facilities, the only exception being San Francisco's Pacific Bell Park (home of the San Francisco Giants) which was built primarily for baseball, but (unlike many newer baseball-specific stadiums) can accommodate football. Two XFL stadiums (Giants Stadium and Soldier Field) were also then-current NFL stadiums, while two others (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Liberty Bowl) had previously hosted NFL games; the NFL would return to the Coliseum when Rams returned to Los Angeles. The remaining fields were in regular use as college football venues at the time.

The home team in every stadium was required to occupy the sideline opposite the press box in order to be visible to the television cameras. Due to the odd field dimensions in San Francisco, teams playing there were permitted to occupy the same sideline.

The all-grass field stipulation caused the league to skip over several of the country's largest markets, including Houston and Philadelphia, since they lacked a large grass stadium in 2001. In the league's two northernmost markets, Chicago and New York/New Jersey (the latter of which played in Giants Stadium during a brief window in which the stadium's usual artificial turf had been replaced by natural grass), the combination of the all-grass requirement, midwinter playing season and the fact that the XFL followed shortly after the NFL had used both fields for a full season caused significant damage to the playing fields; at Chicago's Soldier Field, the wear and tear on the field was such that by midseason, the midfield logo of the Enforcers' cross-league rivals the Chicago Bears was clearly visible amid a stretch of dirt and dead grass.

Within a year of the XFL's demise, "next generation" artificial surfaces (which much more closely mimicked grass in both appearance and player safety) would be introduced in professional football. Giants Stadium would have a next generation artificial surface installed in 2003; Soldier Field was renovated extensively in 2002 but remained a grass field.

Opening scramble

Replacing the coin toss at the beginning of each game was an event in which one player from each team fought to recover a football 20 yards away in order to determine possession. Both players lined up side-by-side on one of the 30-yard lines, with the ball being placed at the 50-yard line. At the whistle, the two players would run toward the ball and attempt to gain possession; whichever player gained possession first was allowed to choose possession (as if he had won a coin toss in other leagues). The XFL's first injury infamously resulted from the opening scramble; Orlando free safety Hassan Shamsid-Deen suffered a separated shoulder prior to the Rage's 3329 season-opening win over the Chicago Enforcers at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on February 3.[15] He ended up missing the remainder of the campaign.[16]

No PAT (point after touchdown) kicks

After touchdowns there were no extra point kicks, due to the XFL's perception that an extra point kick was a "guaranteed point." To earn a point after a touchdown, teams ran a single offensive down from the two-yard line (functionally identical to the NFL/NCAA/CFL two-point conversion), but for just a single point. By the playoffs, two-point and three-point conversions had been added to the rules. Teams could opt for the bonus points by playing the conversion farther back from the goal line.

This rule, as originally implemented, was similar to the WFL's "Action Point," and was identical to a 1968 "Pressure Point" experiment by the NFL and American Football League, used only in preseason interleague games that year.


Ties were resolved in similar fashion to the NCAA and present-day CFL game, with at least one possession by each team, starting from the opponent's 20-yard line. There were differences: there were no first downs teams had to score within four downs, and the team that had possession first in overtime could not attempt a field goal until fourth down. If that team managed to score a touchdown in fewer than four downs, the second team would only have that same number of downs to match or beat the result. If the score was still tied after one overtime period, the team that played second on offense in the first OT would start on offense in the second OT (similar to the rules of college football overtime)

Bump and run

The XFL allowed full bump and run coverage early in the season. Defensive backs were allowed to hit wide receivers any time before the quarterback released the ball, as long as the hit came from the front or the side (similar to the NCAA).

Following the fourth week of the season, bump and run was restricted to the first five yards from the line of scrimmage (similar to NFL and CFL) in an effort to increase offensive production.

Forward motion

Unlike the NFL, but like the World Football League and Arena Football League before it, the XFL allowed one offensive player to move toward the line of scrimmage once he was outside the tackles.

Halo rule / live punts

The heavily-hyped "no fair catch" rule was paired with a five-yard zone excluding players of the kicking team around potential returners before the ball touched them or the ground, similar to rules in Canadian football and contemporary NCAA rules (where the term "halo" was applied, though the XFL called it instead the "danger zone"). But instead of making punt returns more exciting, it often had the opposite effect, since the XFL players' inexperience with the rule caused a high number of game-delaying penalties.

The fair catch had previously been abolished from NCAA rules (but only for the 1950 season), and rugby league.

Another difference was that after touching ground 25 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage, punts could be recovered and advanced by all players of the kicking team. This led to more quick kicks being taken on third-down-and-long situations in the one season of the small league than had been seen in the NFL over several preceding decades of longer seasons. This XFL rule was similar to a rule that had been in effect in American football in the 1910s and part of the 1920s.

XFL penalized 10 yards from the succeeding spot for punts going out of bounds, even if they first touched the ground (but not a player of the receiving team). The changes practically eliminated the coffin corner kicking style, in which a good punter could pin an opposing offense deep in its own territory by precisely kicking a ball out of bounds a few yards from the end zone.

For the initial weeks of the season, the XFL forbade all players on the kicking team from going downfield before a kick was made from scrimmage on that down, similarly to a rule the NFL considered in 1974. For the rest of the season the XFL modified it to allow one player closest to each sideline downfield ahead of the kick, the same modification the NFL adopted to their change just before their 1974 exhibition games started.

The purpose of these provisions was to keep play going after the ball was punted, encouraging the kicking team to make the ball playable and the receiving team to run it back.

Play clock

The XFL used a 35-second play clock, five seconds shorter than the contemporary NFL play clock of 40 seconds, in an effort to speed up the game.

Roster and salaries

The XFL limited each team to an unusually low 38 players, as opposed to 53 on NFL teams and 80 or more on unlimited college rosters. This was similar to the CFL, which had a comparable 40-man roster limit in 2001. This resulted, most commonly, in each team only carrying two quarterbacks and one kicker who doubled as the punter.

The XFL paid standardized player salaries. Quarterbacks earned US$5,000 per week, kickers earned $3,500, and all other uniformed players earned $4,500 per week, though a few players got around these restrictions (Los Angeles Xtreme players Noel Prefontaine, the league's lone punting specialist, and Matt Malloy, a wide receiver) by having themselves listed as backup quarterbacks. Players on a winning team received a bonus of $2,500 for the week, $7,500 for winning a playoff game. The team that won the championship game split $1,000,000 (roughly $25,000 per player). Players did not receive any fringe benefits, and had to pay for their own health insurance.

Broadcast overview

Sky cam

Although the XFL was not the first football league to feature the "sky cam",[17][18] which enables TV viewers to see behind the offensive unit, it helped to popularize its unique capabilities. For the first several weeks, the league used the sky cam and on-field cameramen extensively, giving the television broadcasts a perspective similar to video games such as the Madden series.

After the XFL's failure, the use of aerial blimps, the sky cam was adopted by the NFL's broadcasters; the device has subsequently come into use on all major networks. (It is not as widely used in most NFL broadcasts as it was in the XFL, except on NBC Sunday Night Football.)

Broadcast schedule

At the beginning of the season, NBC showed a feature game at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday nights, also taping a second game. The second game, in some weeks, would air in the visiting team's home market and be put on the air nationally if the feature game was a blowout (as was the case in week one) or encountered technical difficulties (as was the case in week two). Two games were shown each Sunday: one at 4 p.m. Eastern on TNN (now Spike TV) and another at 7 p.m. Eastern on UPN (which has since merged with The WB to form The CW).

In a notable departure from the NFL, in which any references to sports betting, including point spreads, are strictly prohibited on league broadcasts, XFL announcers were actually encouraged to discuss point spreads during the game and did so frequently. The XFL considered the discussion of point spreads to be good publicity for the league because it emphasized the willingness of Las Vegas bookmakers to take bets on their games - something they presumably would not have done if they had suspected the contests were not honest.

The XFL also had a fairly extensive local radio presence, often using nationally recognized disc jockeys. The morning radio duo of Rick and Bubba, for instance, was the radio broadcast team for the Birmingham Thunderbolts. Super Dave Osborne was a sideline reporter for Los Angeles Xtreme broadcasts on KLSX; WMVP carried Chicago Enforcers games.

Unusually for a professional league, the XFL did not feature a studio wraparound. The network offered XFL Gameday, a pregame show featuring radio shock jocks Opie and Anthony for the first four weeks of the season, but the show was not carried nationwide and most affiliates joined in just before the game. Halftime consisted mostly of live look-ins into the player locker rooms, as coaches discussed their strategy and halftime adjustments with their players.

In the third week of the season, the games were sped up through changes in the playing rules, and broadcasts were subjected to increased time constraints. The reason was the reaction of Lorne Michaels, creator and executive producer of Saturday Night Live, to the length of the Los Angeles Xtreme versus Chicago Enforcers game that went into double overtime. This caused the start of Saturday Night Live to be pushed back from 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time to 12:15 a.m. Sunday morning.[12] This angered Michaels, who expected high ratings with Jennifer Lopez as the show's host.[12] For the rest of the season, the XFL cut off coverage at 11:00 Eastern Time, regardless of whether or not the game was over.

In the face of declining ratings, the XFL announced prior to week 6's game between the Orlando Rage and the Las Vegas Outlaws that they would be entering the Rage's cheerleaders' locker room during halftime.[19] The heavily promoted event was, in fact, a stunt: instead of showing an entry into the room, viewers instead saw a sketch in which the cameraman knocked himself unconscious by running into the locker room door, followed by a "dream sequence" with only slightly suggestive content. Vince McMahon appeared at the beginning and the end of the sketch, berating the cameraman for his failure.

Broadcast teams

Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross came over from WWE to fill similar roles on XFL broadcasts.

Media reception

The XFL aimed to attract two distinct audiences: wrestling fans and football fans. The XFL also tried to attract fans from other areas of entertainment (e.g., movies).

Many football fans distrusted the league because of its relationship to pro wrestling. They had a hard time accepting that a close, come-from-behind win or a controversial ending had not been scripted in advance, although there was no evidence to support this (it did not help that the league's opening-night telecast began with a high-octane pep talk by WWE wrestler The Rock and with Vince McMahon addressing the stadium crowd during the pre-game ceremony with the bombast typical of his "Mr. McMahon" character on WWE telecasts).[20]

The league was panned by critics as boring football with a tawdry broadcast style, although the broadcasts on TNN and to a lesser extent UPN and the Matt Vasgersian–helmed NBC coverage were considered comparatively professional.[21] Longtime WWE play-by-play man Jim Ross got the bulk of the criticism for his play-by-play calls of XFL games despite his more than years of experience in calling wrestling matches as well as calling play-by-play for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons in the early 1990s.

Scoring was so scarce that bookmakers could not set the over-under total low enough. Gamblers who took the under, often in the mid 30s, would win consistently; they could even parlay the under for all four games in a weekend and win on a regular basis. Towards the end of the season, bookmakers needed to make the totals in the upper 20s, highly unusual in pro football gambling circles. The league was forced to change rules during the season to afford receivers more protection, but the mid-season rule changes did little to bolster league credibility.

In 2000, before the XFL's launch, the league aired a series of cheerleader commercials on NBC, featuring adult models such as Pennelope Jimenez, Karen McDougal, and Rachel Sterling. The most famous one featured them as some of the cheerleaders taking a shower in the locker room. Using camera angles and strategically placed objects, the commercial gave viewers the illusion that the cheerleaders were nude in the shower. The commercials caused controversy and were deemed too risqué by the media, and they were quickly withdrawn before the debut of the league. (Some of the clips from these commercials were recycled for the aforementioned Week 6 halftime sketch.)

End of season and failure

The WWF and NBC each lost a reported $35 million,[22] only recuperating 30% of their initial $100 million investment.[17] On April 21, 2001, the season concluded as the Los Angeles Xtreme defeated the San Francisco Demons 38–6 in the XFL Championship Game (which was originally given the Zen-like moniker "The Big Game at the End of the Season", but was later dubbed the Million Dollar Game, after the amount of money awarded to the winning team).

Though paid attendance at games remained respectable, if unimpressive (overall attendance was only 10% below what the league's goal had been at the start of the season), the XFL ceased operations after just one season due to low TV ratings.[23][24] Facing stiff competition from the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the NBC telecast of the Chicago/NY-NJ game on March 31 received a 1.5 rating, at that time the lowest ever for any major network primetime weekend first-run sports television broadcast in the United States.[25]

Despite initially agreeing to broadcast XFL games for two years and owning half of the league, NBC announced it would not broadcast a second XFL season, admitting failure in its attempt at airing replacement pro football. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon initially announced that the XFL would continue, as it still had UPN and TNN as broadcast outlets.[26] In fact, expansion teams were being explored for cities such as Washington, D.C. and Detroit. However, in order to continue broadcasting XFL games, UPN demanded that WWE SmackDown! broadcasts be cut from two hours to one and a half hours.[26] McMahon found these terms unacceptable and he announced the XFL's closure on May 10, 2001.[23][24] McMahon's chief adviser, a perplexed Nathan Livian, was quoted as saying "the situation is, indeed, very bad".

One reason for the failure of the league to catch on, despite its financial solvency and massive visibility, was the lack of respect for the league in the sports media. XFL games were rarely treated as sports contests, but rather more like WWE-like sensationalized events. With few NFL-quality players, save Tommy Maddox, the league's MVP, and with little thoughtful analysis or even consideration by sports columnists, the XFL never gained the necessary recognition to be regarded as a viable league. The fact that the league was co-owned by NBC made ESPN (which was part of the same corporation as ABC) and Fox Sports Net (owned by Fox TV) disinclined to report on the XFL, though Time Warner properties such as Sports Illustrated, as well as the Associated Press, devoted coverage to the league (Sports Illustrated even featured the XFL on the cover of its February 12, 2001, edition, albeit with the description of it being "sleazy gimmicks and low-rent football"). Many local TV newscasts and newspapers (even in XFL cities) did not report league scores or show highlights. This led to many football fans treating the XFL as a joke, rather than competition to the NFL. Other problems included the scantily-clad cheerleaders, trash-talking announcers, and the lack of penalties for roughness.

The XFL ranked No. 3 on TV Guide's list of the TV Guide's worst TV shows of all time in July 2002, as well as No. 2 on ESPN's list of biggest flops in sports, behind Ryan Leaf.[27][28] In 2010, TV Guide Network also listed the show at No. 21 on their list of 25 Biggest TV Blunders.[29]

Many stories recapping the history of the XFL show photos of the crash of its promotional blimp, portraying it retrospectively as an ill-omen for the league. The incident occurred a month before the opening game, when its pilot and a student pilot with him, lost control of the airship and were forced to evacuate. The ground crew were unable to secure the vehicle and the "unattended blimp then floated five miles north over the Oakland Estuary, at one point reaching 1,600 feet, until its gondola caught on a sailboat mast in the Central Basin marina. It draped over the roof of the Oyster Reef restaurant -- next to where the boat was moored -- and a nearby power line."[30] While the pilot was hospitalized, no other major injuries were reported. The blimp needed $2.5 million in repairs, the sailboat and restaurant had only minor damages.

Before the season started, a fictional XFL game appeared in the Schwarzenegger movie The 6th Day, set in 2015.[31]


The league popularized "in-game" interviews: Today, National Hockey League players are interviewed between commercial breaks (as they had been for decades before XFL), and Major League Baseball has managers and coaches being interviewed. The National Basketball Association also often features in-game interviews with coaches on games televised on ESPN and TNT following the 1st quarter of certain games.

NBC continued airing professional league football beyond the demise of the XFL, starting with the Arena Football League television coverage from 2003 to 2006. In 2006, NBC returned to coverage of NFL games with NBC Sunday Night Football, eventually adding Thursday Night Football to its coverage in 2016. The occasional use of the "sky-cam" and sideline interviews are the only features common to both the NFL and XFL coverage.

XFL team names and logos sometimes appear in movies and television where professional football needs to be dramatized, as licensing for NFL logos may be cost prohibitive (such as in the Arnold Schwarzenegger starring sci-fi film The 6th Day).

The United Football League later placed all four of its inaugural franchises in former XFL markets and stadiums. However, the UFL drew far fewer fans than the XFL average: For example, the XFL's San Francisco Demons drew an average of 35,000 fans, while the UFL's California Redwoods drew an average of 6,000, despite both playing in the same ballpark. Three of the four charter teams, including the Redwoods, moved to other markets by the time of the UFL's third season.

ESPN Films produced a 30 for 30 episode devoted to the XFL, This Was the XFL. The film discusses the longtime friendship between McMahon and Ebersol, as seen through the eyes of Dick's son, Charlie Ebersol, who directs the film. It is set to debut at Doc NYC November 11, 2016, then air on television February 2, 2017, in the week leading up to Super Bowl LI.[32]

Notable players

Notable players included league MVP and Los Angeles quarterback Tommy Maddox, who signed with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers after the XFL folded (Maddox later became the starting quarterback for the Steelers in 2002 and led them to that year's playoffs, as well as continuing to start for them into 2004). Los Angeles used the first pick in the XFL draft to select a former NFL quarterback, Scott Milanovich. Milanovich lost the starting quarterback job to Maddox, who was placed on the Xtreme as one of a handful of players put on each team due to geographic distance between the player's college and the team's hometown. Another of the better-known players was Las Vegas running back Rod Smart, who first gained popularity because the name on the back of his jersey read "He Hate Me."[33] Smart, who was only picked 357th in the draft, later went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders and the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. His Panther teammate Jake Delhomme named his newborn horse "She Hate Me" as a reference to him.[34] Smart played in Super Bowl XXXVIII becoming one of seven XFL players to play in a Super Bowl. Receiver Yo Murphy also achieved this as a member of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI along with winning the 95th Grey Cup with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2007.[35] Tommy Maddox played for a Super Bowl team (with the Pittsburgh Steelers) in Super Bowl XL in Detroit, (although Maddox, by then a third-string quarterback, did not play in the game, which turned out to be his last appearance in uniform before retiring). Lastly, Las Vegas Outlaws DB Kelly Herndon played in Super Bowl XL with the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, where he is remembered for intercepting a pass and returning it a then-record 76 yards. Although he did not play for an NFL team after the XFL's lone season, former Las Vegas Outlaw offensive guard Isaac Davis also had a notable NFL career, playing in 58 games over a six-year career. Davis started for the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.[36] John Avery went on to play for both the Edmonton Eskimos and the Toronto Argonauts where he was an All Star selection in 2002 and won a Grey Cup in 2004.

The last active player to have played in the XFL is Canadian placekicker Paul McCallum, who retired as a member of the BC Lions prior to the start of the 2016 CFL season, but returned to the team as their place kicker during the final regular season game of the 2016 season.

Played in the CFL

Won a Grey Cup

Played in the NFL

Played in the Super Bowl

Won a Super Bowl

Won both an XFL Championship and Super Bowl

Won an XFL Championship, Grey Cup and Super Bowl

Played in the AFL

Wrestled for WWE

Current status

XFL games are now part of the WWE Video Library.

In September 2012, WWE attempted to file a new XFL trademark for use in wrestling and football which was previously filed in 2009 under XFL LLC. The application is still pending since WWE has not put together a "Statement of Use" for the trademark. WWE could consider abandoning the old application and filing the new one under WWE Inc.[37] In July 2015, the XFL's first trademark extension was granted.[38]


  1. "WWE-21.31-2012-Ex.21.1". Sec.gov. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  2. Archived February 2, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
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  4. Johnson, Mike (May 16, 2013). "5/16 This day in history". PWInsider. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
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  9. Forrest 2002, p. 9.
  10. Sandomir, Richard (4 February 2000). "SPORTS BUSINESS; W.W.E. Alters Script and Looks to Football". The New York Times.
  11. Fritz & Murray 2006, p. 171.
  12. 1 2 3 Fritz & Murray 2006, p. 172.
  13. FitzGerald, Tom, Top of the Sixth, San Francisco Chronicle online edition (SFGate.com), February 15, 2001. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  14. List of stadiums courtesy of xflboard.com.
  15. Cotey, John C. "League starts in Orlando with pageantry, pain," St. Petersburg (FL) Times, Sunday, February 4, 2001.
  16. Hessler, Warner. "XFL Shocking? No More Than The Redskins," Daily Press (Hampton Roads, VA), Wednesday, February 7, 2001.
  17. 1 2 Larry Stewart (February 7, 2001). "XFL, NBC Working Out Kinks". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  18. Terry Tefton (May 16, 2011). "Bubba Cam put cameraman into the game". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  19. Fritz & Murray 2006, p. 173.
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  21. Forrest 2002, p. 59.
  22. "XFL Is Down for the Count". ABC News. 11 May 2001. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  23. 1 2 "WWE drops XFL". money.cnn.com. CNN. 2001-05-10. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  24. 1 2 Sandomir, Richard (2001-05-11). "No More Springtimes for the XFL as League Folds". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  25. Forrest 2002, p. 211.
  26. 1 2 Fritz & Murray 2006, p. 176.
  27. Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie (2002-07-12). "The Worst TV Shows Ever". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  28. "ESPN 25: The 25 Biggest Sports Flops". ESPN. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  29. "Breaking News - TV Guide Network's "25 Biggest TV Blunders" Special Delivers 3.3 Million Viewers". thefutoncritic.com. 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
  30. "Blimp crashes into Oakland restaurant". ESPN. January 31, 2001. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  31. "XFL Ready To Line It Up".
  32. Nesheim, Jay Jay (November 10, 2016). ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 “This Was the XFL” to Premiere in February. ESPN Inc. press release. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  33. Forrest 2002, p. 89.
  34. JS Online: Fans love 'He Hate Me' Archived May 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. Archived June 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  36. Isaac Davis' career summary
  37. "Various News: XFL Back in the News, Chris Jericho, and More". 411MANIA. 2012-09-09. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  38. "XFL - Reviews & Brand Information - World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Stamford, CT - Serial Number: 85720169". Trademarkia.com. Retrieved 2015-12-17.


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