Posted by: Tampa Bay Chamber on Friday, November 15, 2019

Last Friday, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hosted a Circle of Influence event for our top tier members at the University Club of Tampa. Josh Bullock, President of the Tampa Bay Vipers, spoke to the group about the XFL and the Vipers.

The inaugural XFL season is set to kick off in February of 2020. The entire XFL is viewed as a compliment to the NFL and is giving men who love playing football another opportunity to extend or start their professional football careers. The season will be ten weeks long and every single game will be nationally televised through agreements with ESPN, Fox and ABC. The games will be played every weekend starting after the Superbowl, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. There are 8 teams, 4 in the East division (New York, Washington D.C., St. Louis, and Tampa Bay) and 4 in the West (Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Seattle). Each team drafted 70 men about three weeks ago and the Vipers are slated to start practicing on December 3rd in Plant City.

The XFL was created around one signature concept and mission: the love of football. In getting the league off the ground, one of the main goals is to ensure that the games are fun, affordable and accessible to all fans. They want to give fans a voice and a say in building this league. The XFL is taking the traditional game of football and re-imagining it, making sure that the game is fast-paced and exciting and eliminating a lot of the downtime that's experienced in the NFL. For example, the replay limit is capped at 60 seconds and they are currently working with officials to only throw the flag when the penalty hurts the play. The overall rules of the game will differ slightly from the NFL; they have not been officially revealed yet but are planning to formally announce them in just a few weeks.

Fan engagement is a big part of the XFL's overall mission and focus during this first season. They are really leaning into the opportunities that new technology provides for engaging with fans during the game, being able to chat with fans in-game via mobile devices, featuring fans on the big screen and more. Fans are already engaged even before the season has begun. Most notably, a rivalry has already been created between the Vipers and the St. Louis Battlehawks. Which echoes the point that Josh made, the core of this league is fun. They are striving to be the league and the teams that fill the football void in the NFL's off season.

Another major focus is community impact and partnering with the community. Once practice begins, a big part of getting to know the team will be getting to know the specific causes that each player is passionate about and helping them get plugged into that part of the community and tell their story.

The players in this league are similar to the playing level and caliber of the NFL players. The players were scouted by evaluating talent that wasn't currently on NFL rosters and players that didn't quite make the cut for the NFL. The ten week season is broken down into five weeks on the road, five weeks at home, and two weeks of playoff games with the final championship game taking place on April 26th (location to be announced in early January). There will initially be some recognizable faces, Vipers head coach Marc Trestman and head coaches of some of the other teams: Bob Stoops, June Jones, Jim Zorn, Jonathan Hayes. The Vipers have also drafted Plant High School's Aaron Murray and USF's Quinton Flowers.

The XFL is committed to the physical and mental health of their players. Ensuring that the players receive more extensive physicals before they arrive and getting to know the players in a deeper and more intimate way. The medical staff will be comparable to any NFL team and will be paying close attention to injuries and making sure the players have access to first class healthcare. There will be a big focus on building relationships, providing leadership, and meeting the players where they are in their walk of life. Josh emphasized the importance of getting to know one another well enough to recognize if and when there's an issue and how to address it.

While there is no official partnership between the NFL and the XFL, Josh is hopeful that as the XFL grows that may change. The NFL wants the XFL to succeed and the XFL recognizes that it's a compliment to the NFL, not a competition. They will never replace the NFL and that isn't their goal. They anticipate having an annual draft each year to replenish their talent, possibly in September or October. The XFL still needs to sell itself to players, pushing the benefits of improving skill and increasing attractiveness for future possibilities with the NFL.  The referees are recruited similarly to the players, coming from college teams and big bowl games. They will have male and female refs, with 6 female referees currently contracted to play in the 2020 season.

Since Florida is such a big college football state, the XFL anticipates helping some of the college football players by providing them with a place to play, learn and grow. Providing leadership skills, connecting them with the community and helping them work towards whatever their ultimate goal may be. The XFL provides a platform for players just out of college to be showcased. All players receive a base salary, their housing and living expenses covered during the season, and bonuses if they are on the active roster and on the winning team.

The XFL is committed to safe and fair play. They intend to create a standard of where player behavior needs to be and that will be unified across all eight teams. They fully expect their players to be good citizens, good teammates, and good leaders. Their behavior will be a direct reflection of the league and their team.

Currently, the XFL has a whole does not have any national sponsorships or partnerships. As a league, they will be deciding and evaluating the fan base and exposure first before inviting other people and companies in. There may possibly be a few national partnerships in place once the season starts but it will most likely be more of a focus in the coming seasons once the XFL itself is more established.

I think it's safe to say that Tampa Bay was a great choice for an XFL team and this community is excited to welcome another team to the Tampa Bay sports family. To learn more about the Vipers head to

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