The XFL has made its first official signing, inking former Oklahoma Sooners and Pittsburgh Steelers Landry Jones but, in my opinion, it wasn’t the biggest news that came out of the XFL last week.
In an interview on Colin Cowherd’s The Herd, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck was asked if the XFL would sign college players that had yet to complete the minimum three years required, a rule set forth by the NFL.
“We’re not subject to the NFL’s eligibility rules,” Luck said.
It’s not necessarily a surprising announcement – one that was to be expected and one that could change the future of football.
The XFL has to set itself apart this time but not in the ways it tried before with sexuality, rough play and other theatrics. One of the ways many believe it may thrive this time around is by making the league the true minor leagues of professional football – basically knowing it’s identity, knowing it’s not the NFL and knowing that it can’t be the NFL. One of the most impactful ways it can do that is by signing college players that are under the three year eligibility mark that the NFL requires.
With the on-going battle whether college athletes should be paid for their athletic contributions by the system in which they play for, the XFL could play a major role on the future of those athletes if they choose to sign college sophomores or younger. College athletes feel used, even abused, like they are treated unfairly because they are incapable of making a single dollar off of their name and brand and have to adhere to some of the most insane, asinine rules set by the NCAA, while the association and universities seemingly make millions of dollars off of them. The XFL would be offering college players what the NCAA won’t allow: compensation.
Now the obvious question here is how much will one of these future college players be compensated for to play in the XFL and will it be worth it to play a few years in the league or wait it out until after their third year in college, and then make their money in the NFL? That remains unknown.
Luck said they don’t expect many college players to be signed within the first couple of seasons but as time goes on and the league progresses, he expects way more signees from college. But again, it all goes back to money, namely, how much. A large sum of these players are already being paid. Granted, that’s under the table but, regardless, they’re getting paid. So it will be interesting to see how much league creator Vince McMahon forks out to these college players to lure them away from universities and into his league.
But what if it’s not just the XFL paying them? Leaving the NCAA opens up even more opportunities for these athletes to make money, namely in endorsements. Imagine if Trevor Lawrence were able to join the XFL right now. His one season as a true freshman, beating one of the most dominant dynasties that college football has ever seen for the national championship last season cemented him as a star. How many name brand companies do you think were seething at the chance to sign him to an endorsement deal if they could have? I’d bet there were several.
McMahon won’t turn down endorsements for his future players, just ask his wrestlers. The question will be how much of a cut will McMahon get of those checks? And what about high school players? Is that even a possibility? I don’t believe the XFL will set forth any rules that requires an age besides that of the adult age of 18 but I do believe there will be that of an unwritten rule of sorts where they don’t sign any players outside of their freshman year of college.
While on The Herd, Luck also said the XFL Draft would take place sometime in October. If that’s the case, I don’t see how any college players could sign for this upcoming season, or if the draft continues to take place in October, ever. Of course, this could be just for the inaugural draft. But once a player has declared for the NFL Draft, their eligibility is null and void at that point and they are unable to return to play college athletics according to NCAA rules. I can only assume the same goes for the XFL too, right?
With this rendition of the XFL, it has all the potential to change the way younger football players make money, if the league itself is sustainable.