In its first time around, the XFL made it through one full football season.
This second time, it didn’t get that far — through no fault of its own.
Forced to postpone games five weeks into the season, then shut down operations for the year as part of a nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the spring football league — the second one with that name owned by WWE wrestling executive Vince McMahon — laid off most of its staff, and reportedly doesn’t have plans to return for another shot in 2021 as reported by ESPN Friday.
XFL CEO Jeffrey Pollack informed employees of the news Friday on a 10-minute conference call.
As part of the ESPN report, according to a prominent former XFL staffer who was on the call, Pollack stopped short of saying the league was going out of business. But the strong implication was clear. “It’s done,” the staffer said. “It’s not coming back.”
On the XFL.com website, there is no mention of a complete shutdown among the notes of thanks and season highlights from the eight teams and “Team 9”, an extra squad stocked with players available to fill open roster spots on any team in the league at any time. Our closest team was the Tampa Bay Vipers, who went 1-4.
This was McMahon’s second foray into professional football. His baudy 2001 version of the XFL also folded after one year. This time around he created a serious football league that would market a new version of the game while avoiding direct competition with the NFL. It established a series of innovations — from its new kickoff alignment to its three-tiered extra point structure that allowed for “going for 3” instead of the traditional one or two-point conversions.
But a member of the Seattle Dragons learned on March 10 he had tested positive for the coronavirus, causing a hasty shutdown of the league.
At the shutdown, players had been told they would be paid through the end of the regular season, which would have been this weekend. But it fell victim to the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic.