The moment an XFL comeback was announced, skeptics quickly pointed to the failure of the first version of the league, wondering aloud what would be any different this time.
After all, it would still run by Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the Chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. The league had a hard time gaining respect in its first run and many scoffed at the idea of bringing it back.
But this past June, much of that skepticism should have changed to optimism when Oliver Luck was chosen to be Commissioner of the XFL. Luck, who is the father of current Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, has a solid football background.
A former second-round pick, Luck played quarterback for the Houston Oilers for five seasons. But it is his post-playing career that qualifies him to help run the XFL.
He was general manager of both the Frankfurt Galaxy and Rhein Fire in the World League of American Football. Then from 1996-2000, he served as president of NFL Europe. He was team president and general manager of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer and served as the executive vice president of veteran affairs for the NCAA.
The first variation of the XFL didn’t even have a commissioner. It just had McMahon, who clearly wanted to have a frequent visual appearance, showing his face on television as much as possible.
On episode 28 of the Something to Wrestle podcast hosted by Bruce Pritchard and Conrad Thompson, Pritchard, a former WWE personality and producer, revealed how unorganized the first attempt at running a football league was.
McMahon entrusted many of his own WWE producers to help run the league behind the scenes. Pritchard talked about “producing” football games and even went on to say that the scrum, the XFL’s way of determining who would possess the ball first, was an idea concocted on the way to the stadium before the first game.
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It was clear that if an XFL resurrection were to be successful, football people, not wrestling people, would have to be put in key positions.
Luck was the first good move. That was followed by the hiring of Doug Whaley, who will serve as the league’s Senior Vice President of Football Operations.
Whaley was employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers for 10 years as a pro personnel director before becoming general manager of the Buffalo Bills, a post he held for five seasons.
It seems as though McMahon learned from the mistakes that helped bury the XFL in 2001 after just one season. He’s always been passionate about the idea of having his own professional football league, he just didn’t know how to go about doing it.
This time, with the executives he has surrounded himself with to this point, it already looks like a major improvement.