As we near the biggest football game of the year, we are reminded of one of the sports’ most memorable experiments.
Vince McMahon, the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, helped found the XFL in 2001 with a vision of fusing his brand into football. The league split its eight teams into two divisions and held a 10-game schedule with no bye weeks. The Los Angeles Xtreme won the lone XFL Championship in a 38-6 thrashing of the San Francisco Demons at the L.A. Coliseum.
The XFL created some rule changes to deviate from the NFL. Instead of a coin toss, the XFL had an “opening scramble.” Players from opposing teams raced from their end zones to the ball at the 50-yard line, and whichever player came away with it got to choose whether his team got possession. The league also allowed bump-and-run coverage and took away fair catches with the intent of spicing the game up. Players also got to choose what name appeared on the back of their jersey, allowing some players to place nicknames and mantras instead of their last name.
Some players were pleasantly surprised with the quality of play in the league, but the XFL ultimately crumbled after just one season. The league was a financial failure and all sides abandoned hopes of a second season.