Dan Piersma, Assistant Sports Editor
The XFL is now through its first two weeks, with the third coming up this weekend, and the reactions have been generally positive. It’s a league that was first introduced 20 years ago by Vince McMahon, but at the time only lasted one season.
The league seems to be different now, and is attracting a lot of people as a way to still have football during the NFL’s off-season.
It gives more players from around the world and smaller leagues a chance to play. The XFL has some former NFL players, as well as players coming from the CFL or college. Although the XFL is a smaller league that’s just starting out and can be referred to as a secondary league to the NFL, that doesn’t change the skill level of these players.
Utica College football senior defensive linemen Shane Walpole appreciates the difference in rules between the two leagues.
For years the NFL has been doing everything possible to make the game safer. Less big hits ultimately means less concussions. Many fans love to see the big hits because that’s what football has always been about. With the NFL now focusing on the future of athletes’ lives more than ever, some fans are complaining because too many penalties are being called.
The XFL cares about safety just as much, but not nearly as many penalties are called and the players are getting away with more hits compared to the NFL.
“The NFL changes their rules for safety, but they take a lot of fun out of the game for people and the XFL values that,” Walpole said. “The XFL is bringing back those fun aspects. Another fun thing about the league is its ability to let the players have fun. They seem to be rowdy all the time and they’re just having fun out there.”
Another benefit of this new league is that it presents more opportunities to play professional football.
Especially for a smaller school like Utica College, these opportunities are few and far between. Division three schools are often overlooked by all professional sports because scouts tend to pay more attention to division one and division two schools.
There is very good talent that can come out of smaller schools. An example would be Nick Woodman, who won defensive player of the year in the arena football league last year. With the arena league now disbanded, some of those players will seek opportunities elsewhere.
“That goes to show that Division Three players can compete with other people. They shouldn’t give up their dreams of continuing playing just because they’re Division III.” Walpole said.
Senior linebacker Antonio Scala is a big fan of the XFL, and understands the potential the league could have.
“Many of the players in the XFL are former NFL players,” Scala said. “I would be very interested in continuing my football career.”
The league looks to be in good standing as of right now, far better than it was 20 years ago. During the first four games on opening weekend the XFL drew nearly 12.5 million viewers, and in week two the total attendance for all games was around 76,000. This number was up about 6,500 from the inaugural week one attendance.
In the NFL, it is common to see some rugby players or even international soccer players sign deals because of their strength or speed. The XFL could turn out to be something similar.
“The XFL is definitely a good spot for undrafted players to go to in order to gain experience and show scouts they can play,” Walpole said.