94°F
weather icon Clear

XFL could succeed with boost from NFL, NIL says former QB

With the NFL’s Raiders now entrenched on the Strip, the news that Las Vegas will have a team in this latest reboot of the XFL mostly was greeted with shrugs.

In 2001, the reaction was different. The city was ready for any kind of pro football, and it welcomed XFL 1.0 with open arms.

So why now? And why here? Those still seem like legitimate questions.

But with Dwayne Johnson and his manager and ex-wife Dany Garcia having replaced Vince McMahon as celebrity owners of the spring football league that won’t go away, there’s a better chance the XFL’s viability over a longer term may not be between The Rock and a hard place as it was in previous iterations.

When the XFL returns in spring, it will do so without hurling chairs and other over-the-top elements borrowed from professional wrestling that defined it under McMahon’s watch. Even if that bawdiness was a big part of why the start-up league mostly succeeded in Las Vegas while it failed everywhere else.

Garcia and The Rock instead have scripted something much more vital — a working relationship with the NFL.

Proposed new rules, innovations and ideas will be tested in the XFL, which essentially will replace NFL Europe as an NFL proving ground. You might remember the overseas minor league lasted for 15 seasons, thanks mostly to the NFL’s highly coveted seal of approval.

Matt Clement and Dwayne Johnson were Miami Hurricanes teammates. Clement, the former Las Vegas Outlaws quarterback, believes another three-lettered force — NIL, the abbreviation for name, image and likeness that now allows college athletes to earn significant sums of money before they turn pro, also could help the XFL reduce player salaries and establish additional continuity.

Clement contends that players who make a bunch of money on the side from benefactors in college and even high school may not feel the need to get jobs outside of football if an NFL career doesn’t pan out. That could help the XFL keep players longer and create some stars of its own.

Around the horn

— That little participation-sized trophy the Aces’ Kelsey Plum received for being named MVP of the WNBA All-Star Games turned into an even bigger joke this week when WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert presented the popular point guard with what appeared to be a gift box from Tiffany’s.

Inside was a trophy even smaller than the first one.

“Cathy got jokes,” Plum said, feigning disgust as the other Aces roared in laughter.

— Former UNLV basketball great Reggie Theus and former wearer of substantial bling Deion Sanders are feuding after Theus, basketball coach and athletic director at Bethune-Cookman, moved the school’s home football game against Jackson State, where Sanders is coach, to 67,000-seat TIAA Bank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Bethune-Cookman, what is their fan base?” Sanders said at Southwest Athletic Conference football media day. “I’m trying to uplift the SWAC. “(They) are depending on our fan base to come fill it.”

Replied Theus, whose Wildcats drew around 5,000 at home last season in contrast to Jackson State’s 42,000: “I think Deion is brilliant. We got more national exposure out of that (comment) than anything. I say ‘thank you.’”

— Erich Uelman, a right-handed relief pitcher who made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs on July 22, is a Faith Lutheran graduate and the first Crusader to play in the big leagues.

After being nicked for a run against the Phillies, Uelman threw 2.1 innings of hitless relief in the Cubs’ 4-2 loss at San Francisco Thursday night.

0:01

Pac-12 commissioner (and former MGM Resorts executive) George Kliavkoff on losing Southern Cal and UCLA to the Big Ten and the advent of power conferences in college sports:

“Our long-term measure of college athletics cannot be how much money we can consolidate into 10 or five or two conferences … We should be measuring how many lives we can change.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

THE LATEST