A Successful XFL Could Change the Landscape of Collegiate Football
With the reintroduction of the XFL to American sports, college football could feel the largest impact.
Updated: Feb. 14, 2020 • 3:30 PM ET
The XFL has returned to professional sports in 2020.
Though still in its infancy, Vince McMahon’s latest rendition of the XFL looks to make its mark. While not directly competing against the NFL, the XFL looks to become a league to stay, and with so many recognizable names, this could very well be the case. And although it’s most unlikely a successful XFL will be any threat to the dominance of the NFL, it is likely that a successful XFL would completely alter the landscape of college football.
Let’s be real here — the NFL is, and always will be, the ultimate destination for every aspiring professional football player — nothing is going to change that; not with the century of tradition and heritage the NFL carries. But that doesn’t mean that the inclusion of a paying, semi-professional league isn’t going to change how some of the top talents in the country take their path to get there.
Unlike the NFL, which requires players to be out of high school for at least three years before becoming draft eligible, the XFL doesn’t have such a rule. Players can forgo college altogether and head straight into a league that pays them. And with the controversy surrounding college players being paid, why not simply bypass the NCAA restrictions and head to the XFL?
The NBA and MLB already have similar structures in place, but that begs the question: are those systems comparable to the current state of the XFL?
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Basketball players have the option to forgo playing in college and go overseas, or to the G League (NBA’s minor league). Yet, unlike the NFL, the NBA requires players to be at least 19 years old before they are eligible for NBA play. The NBA, however, has submitted a formal proposal to the Players Association to change the rule so draft eligible players only have to be 18 years old.
There’s an advantage for players to go to college rather than overseas — coaching and competition. The coaching staffs available to basketball players on the collegiate level is arguably better than the coaching and preparation they would get if they decided to play professionally overseas.
MLB allows players to get drafted right out of high school. Many accept the option and are funneled into the minor league system, while others elect to go to college and play there instead. And unlike minor league baseball or the G League, the XFL already has major network deals in place with FOX, ABC and ESPN.
The major deciding factor is without a doubt, money. The average income for G-League players is around $35,000, while the average AAA minor league baseball salary was $82,122 in 2019, according to payscale.com, and less for playing in lower level minor leagues.
As it stands, the average XFL salary is $55,000 with quarterbacks potentially earning up to $500,000, nowhere near NFL level but certainly sustainable. For an 18-year-old, that kind of money might look a little more appealing than the big $0 they would get for playing in college. And if the XFL becomes a staple in the sporting world, it’s almost certain that average player salaries will go up, especially if the league is interested in obtaining some of the better high school level talent.
A successful XFL means that high school players have the option to play and learn under the tutelage of coaches with NFL experience, as well as former NFL players. Soon, college coaches may find themselves not only competing against each other when it comes to recruiting, but against a league that offers some better perks.
Sure, there’s a lot of money in college football. The sport has bowl games with millions of people watching (at least the major bowls). But let’s be honest, how many players will ever get to play in one of those big games? Unless you play for one of the ‘Bamas or Clemsons, chances are you’re not going to get a shot on the big stage.
And if the XFL continues to grow and become more successful, then what? What advantage can coaches offer student athletes over the XFL? Come play for our college program, where you won’t get paid and any attempt to receive monetary benefits will be met with immediate punishment, and you can get drafted after three years, unless you sustain a major injury that potentially derails your entire career? Or do you want to go to the XFL, where you’ll be paid pretty well, all things considered, and you don’t have to worry about things like going to class?
What does college have to offer that’s better? A degree? That’s true, a college degree is one of the greatest achievements out there. But how many of these players actually go to these schools for a degree? Most declare for the draft and leave before they ever have one in hand. As XFL DC Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones once put it while at The Ohio State University, “We ain’t come to play school.”
It’s certainly possible that the XFL grows to the point that they become a lucrative alternative to college football. If this is the case, expect some of the nation’s top talent to turn to the XFL. If that happens, it could lead to the parity that college football so desperately needs.
Let’s face it, college football loses some of its luster when the same programs are expected to win year-in-and-year-out. People can only stomach the Alabamas of the world dominating for so long before they get sick of seeing the same few teams in the College Football Playoff every year. With an XFL to draw away some of that talent, it’s possible that recruiting could be more evenly distributed.
Either way, if the XFL sticks around and grows, expect a completely revamped college football in the near future.