Former XFL 2020 Commissioner Oliver Luck recently sat down with Reid Johnson on The Markcast podcast to discuss his experiences leading the XFL and share insights on the future of spring football.

In this interview, Luck delves into the strategies behind XFL 2020’s initial success, the challenges facing spring football leagues like the UFL, and his thoughts on the current state of the sport.

Strategic Timing and Quality of Play

Luck emphasized the importance of starting the XFL 2020 season immediately after the Super Bowl to capitalize on football enthusiasm:

We thought there was real value in gliding off of that in the wake of the Super Bowl, kicking off the season. The critical thing, in my estimation, was we wanted to make sure we had good quality players, games coming out of the shoot.

From what we are hearing, the UFL still plans on keeping the same league schedule for the 2025 season. There was some talk of moving the schedule to the beginning of March but no talk of returning post Super Bowl in February.

Innovative Kickoff Rule

The former commissioner also discussed the XFL’s innovative approach to the kickoff rule, which was later adopted by the NFL but not the UFL:

Yeah, it surprised me. They didn’t do it, but I don’t know why.

Many XFL/UFL fans were wondering the same thing. It would have drawn more eyes on the UFL product at least for the 2024 season.

So that surprised me that they wouldn’t have taken advantage of that interest from the American public.

We have heard from sources they could bring back the XFL kickoff in 2025. One of the many things being discussed during the UFL off season.

Would Luck Return To Spring Football

Luck states that he is busy with other projects but talks about his playbook for Spring Leagues.

I’m doing a bunch of things with college athletics. I’m also doing a pretty significant project outside of college sports that really is all about the law. I’m a lawyer by training, and that’s keeping me busy, and I find it very fascinating. Actually more intellectually stimulating than a spring football.

Not to say that spring football leagues aren’t fun. They are. I’ve been through two of them, and there is a playbook, if you will. And installing that playbook isn’t really as difficult as some people make it out to be.

Financial Challenges in Spring Football

Regarding the challenges facing spring football leagues, Luck highlighted the need for substantial financial backing but the reward down the road could be huge:

I think it obviously takes some money, number one. The valuations for all pro-sports franchises have just skyrocketed. I don’t care if it’s NFL, NBA, MLB, but even look at the second tier league like the NWSL, the women’s soccer league. MLS, I would categorize it as a major league, and MLS is doing remarkably well on its valuation.

Selling UFL Franchises

Luck emphasizes it will take time and money for any UFL team to be sold to an owner. The question is does FOX and Redbird Capital have the patience to wait several years.

I think, though, it takes a while, quite honestly, to stabilize. It’s like building a new apartment complex. Somebody develops an apartment complex. Before they flip it, they really have to stabilize their rent and get up to whatever, 92% occupancy and have a healthy rent, et cetera. It probably would take, in my estimation, anywhere between three and five years to stabilize one of these franchises.

Luck goes on to put over cities like St Louis and DC. Seattle, which is not part of the UFL, comes up quite a bit in his conversion with Reid about successful XFL cities. Seattle is clearly a favorite to return to the UFL, the question is when. The UFL could sit on the 8 teams for another two seasons to stabilize the league.

UFL Making Coaches Seasonal Employees

Luck reflected on the success in NFL Europe and having coaches full time. They talk about the UFL switching its model to having head coaches seasonal employees:

My preference would be not to do that. We had full-time coaches in NFL Europe, and we used those guys in the offseason. They’d come over to Europe. We’d have all clinics in France, in Germany, and everywhere else, just to keep the brand alive. You wanted to be viable in any marketplace. I think the same thing is true of the UFL. But again, it depends on resources.

And again, I’ll go back to a pretty simple point. You need money to do that. And if you don’t have the money, it’s going to be tough to build that continuity in your local marketplace, particularly given the checkered history of spring football in this country.

The Future of Spring Football

Looking to the future, Luck expressed cautious optimism about spring football’s prospects but acknowledged the potential impact of recent changes in college athletics:

Spring football is… I’m very bullish on it, but it does take someone initially with some deep pockets and some staying power to really build the brand, in part because there have been so many stops and starts, starts and stops over the years. And so people are going to be a little bit suspicious before they invest.

Some other points Luck made, he wasn’t surprised by the XFL and USFL merger. Quarterback play is very important, something he emphasized during his XFL days.

He had several conversations with CFL Commissioner Randy Ambroise, more about players getting to the NFL than anything else. Which is interesting as the new XFL owners took a year off trying to merge with the Canadian Football League.

His relationship with Bob Stoops and why he coached in the XFL. The impact in NIL on Spring Football and more.

Worth a full listen for any XFL/UFL fan. Luck knows what he is talking about when it comes to Spring Football.

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Mark Perry Editor
Mark Perry, a devoted sports journalist and founder of UFL News Hub, has been a key figure in XFL, USFL and UFL coverage since 2018.

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