Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Comments On UFL

Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Comments On UFL

If you’ve been around long enough in the spring football scene, the name Oliver Luck will ring a bell. Luck was an integral piece in building the product that we see today, having been the Commissioner for the XFL which relaunched back in 2020. The XFL 2.0, as we call it, was arguably the most successful spring football league in the modern era – and disappointingly shut down midseason due to COVID-19.

While Luck hasn’t been in the spring football scene since 2020, he’s been keeping an eye on what these leagues have been doing. Oliver recently joined The Markcast Podcast, hosted by Reid Johnson of Sports Illustrated/Fan Nation, to discuss the current state of the UFL and spring football.

As expected, he made some intriguing comments regarding what the UFL is – and isn’t – doing right now. Right off the bat, Luck described why he believes the XFL’s timeline of kicking off right after the Super Bowl is superior:

“We [the XFL] thought we had an opportunity to coast off of the Super Bowl. Unlike the current UFL, we started the week after the Super Bowl, and there was still a buzz in the American football community in this country. You’ve gone through a long college season, a long NFL season that culminates in the most-watched television event in the history of North America. We thought there was real value in gliding off of the Super Bowl.”

The XFL in 2020 and 2023 kicked off the week after the Super Bowl. In 2020 it led to some excellent TV Ratings out of the gate, while in 2023 those numbers didn’t come close to what they were then. In contrast, the UFL kicked off on March 30th – a month and a half removed from the Super Bowl.

Luck went on to discuss the benefits it brings to the players involved, to feature an earlier kickoff. It allows for more NFL opportunities – and a break in between the spring and NFL seasons.

“We believed that there was value in starting right after the NFL season was over. Not just to take advantage of the interest level that was still fairly high, but also to go through a ten game regular season, two weeks of the playoffs – we wanted to give our players a chance to rest a little bit before going into an NFL Training Camp. We believed that we needed to make our league, in terms of players (and coaches), as accessible and amenable to make that NFL transition possible.”

Another topic of discussion for spring football fans this year was the kickoff rule. The XFL completely changed the game in 2020 with their innovation. Kickoffs were once again an important part of the game, allowing for exciting plays to be made in a safer manner. Even though the NFL has adopted a similar version for the 2024-25 season, the UFL chose to roll with the USFL kickoff; a more traditional approach.

Luck was surprised that the UFL went in that direction, noting how the XFL created something that the NFL was closely analyzing:

“We had a lot of discussions about the kickoff…and got input from so many people. We always said ‘is this a gimmick’? Because if it’s a gimmick, if the American public would view this as a gimmick, we didn’t want it. We wanted real, good old fashioned football. But, there are things you can do that aren’t gimmicky, we believe, that really help improve the game, and the kickoff was one example of that. To everyone their own; obviously I wasn’t involved in the UFL, but it did surprise me – and actually disappointed me that they didn’t use that kickoff…it wasn’t a secret that the NFL was looking at it.”

Of course, there were plenty of things that the UFL did well. Luck acknowledged the impressive TV Ratings, and also commented on how important it was for the USFL and XFL to merge. The appetite for spring football isn’t large enough to roster two separate leagues, so the joining of forces for the 2024 season was “not surprising”.

One of the intriguing topics of discussion that came up was the idea of selling off the UFL franchises to owners. Oliver certainly sees that as a possibility in the future, but the league first needs to “stabilize” itself:

“I think it takes a while to stabilize…it would probably take, in my estimation, anywhere between 3-5 years to stabilize one of these franchises. St. Louis – incredible fan support – we had it right out of the gate. I think the UFL had it this past season. That may be stabilized already if you can count on 40,000 fans coming down to watch the team in an NFL-style venue. It’s a great atmosphere. But there’s other franchises that will take longer. Spring football takes, initially, someone with deep pockets and staying power to build the brand.”

Luck went on to reflect on the XFL 2020 season, seeing how cities like St. Louis, Seattle, and DC really embraced the XFL teams early on with excellent support. There were others that needed more time to develop, though, which obviously didn’t come to fruition with the XFL shutting down.

It’s also important for the UFL to not be “too cheap”, says Luck. He isn’t familiar with their financial situation in general, but knows that it takes a lot of money within the first few years to actually establish a spring league; “you’re not going to make any money in year one, year two, year three, year four – maybe in year five you’ll have a plus-minus zero point.”

Finally, Reid Johnson asked what many of us want to know: would Oliver Luck return to the spring football scene?

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve got a bunch of stuff that I’m doing right now that I really enjoy. As I call it, I don’t have a W-2 job and I like that, because I can decide more or less how I spend my time. I’m doing a bunch of things with college athletics, and also a pretty significant project outside of college sports that’s really all about the law. That’s keeping me busy, and I find it fascinating.”

While Oliver Luck’s days in spring football are likely done, his impact will never be forgotten. The UFL certainly could benefit from some of the things that the XFL did in 2020; and they already are in many ways.

The full interview on The Markcast Podcast’s channel is linked below:

What are your thoughts on Oliver Luck and his viewpoints on the UFL? Are there things the UFL should implement that the XFL did in 2020? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

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