The XFL, once again, appears to be over.
ESPN reported that the league suspended operations Friday morning and laid off nearly all of its staff, carrying no plans to return for 2021.
Standing as WWE head Vince McMahon’s second attempt at establishing offseason football, the latest incarnation of the league had its inaugural season cut short after just five weeks of play because of the coronavirus outbreak. When the announcement was made March 12, the league vowed to its fans that it would return to play a full schedule in 2021 and continue on into the future.
“Your passion, your commitment to your favorite XFL team and your love of football made our season a success beyond our wildest dreams,” read a letter to fans from XFL president Jeffrey Pollack and commissioner Oliver Luck. “We’re grateful for the incredible response and look forward to playing full seasons for you -- and with you -- in 2021 and beyond.”
That all appears to be null and void. Pollack held a conference call Friday to inform employees of the news but avoided saying the league was completely done, according to the ESPN report. However, a prominent former staffer who was let go was quoted saying there was a strong implication that the XFL was not coming back.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said that employees would be paid through Sunday, but he added that there was no talk of resuming operations.
The league itself has yet to provide any sort of comment beyond a tweet that’s just a clip of actor Jake Gyllenhaal bidding farewell from an episode of late night TV.
Although it had only just started, word that the league was closing down caused some heartbreak. It was never going to compete with the NFL, but for fans still looking for a football fix after the Super Bowl, the XFL provided that and then some with a series of rule changes that rewarded high-risk play and created more room for big plays.
It also led to a number of feel-good stories of players still looking to find a spot in professional football. One of then was former Temple quarterback P.J. Walker, whose excellent play led the Houston Roughnecks to a 5-0 start and earned him an NFL contract with the Carolina Panthers and his old college coach, Matt Rhule.
The second iteration of the XFL consisted of eight teams. The Roughnecks, Dallas Renegades, Los Angeles Wildcats, and Seattle Dragons in the west; and the D.C. Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks, and Tampa Bay Vipers in the east. They went in expecting to play a 10-game regular season, followed by a four-team playoff (taking the top two teams in each division) to determine a champion before the coronavirus pandemic sent everything off the rails.