Inside the XFL

by Fran Stuchbury
July 28, 2022 - XFL (XFL)

On Sunday the XFL announced the eight cities that will be part of the league for the 2023 season along with the head coaches for each market.

Arlington, TX (Choctaw Stadium) - Bob Stoops
Houston, TX (TDECU Stadium) - Wade Phillips
Orlando, FL (Camping World Stadium) - Terrell Buckley
Las Vegas, NV (to be announced) - Rod Woodson
San Antonio, TX (The Alamodome) - Hines Ward
Seattle, WA (Lumen Field) - Jim Haslett
St. Louis, MO (The Dome) - Anthony Becht
Washington D.C. (Audi Field) - Reggie Barlow

Five XFL markets from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season will return and play in the same venue: Arlington, TX; Houston; Washington, D.C.; Seattle and St. Louis.

Three XFL teams which played in 2020 won't be back: the New York Guardians, Los Angeles Wildcats and Tampa Bay Vipers.

Three new cities have joined the lineup in Orlando, San Antonio and Las Vegas. While the trio of cities are new to the XFL, they each have a history of hosting alternative, professional football.

Orlando has had the most daliances with other football leagues.

The Orlando Panthers of the Continental Football League played four seasons, from 1966 to 1970. In 1971 the Panthers were part of the Atlantic Coast Football League.

Jack Pardee coached the World Football League's Florida Blazers which played one season in 1974. They advanced to the World Bowl championship before losing to the Birmingham Americans, 22-21. In 1975 the team relocated to San Antonio and became the San Antonio Wings prior to the WFL folding during the season.

The Orlando Renegades of the United States Football League compiled a record of 5-13 in its only season in 1985 after relocating from Washington, DC. Coached by ESPN personality Lee Corso, the Renegades were one of eight teams that planned to play in the fall of 1986 before the USFL's demise.

The Arena Football League's Orlando Predators took the field for 25 seasons from 1991 to 2016 and won two ArenaBowl Championships in 1998 and 2000. They folded after the 2016 season. In 2019 a new Predators franchise became a member of the National Arena League

The Orlando Thunder of the World League of American Football lasted two seasons in 1991 and 1992. The league went on hiatus after the 1992 season before returning with an all-European lineup two year later. The Thunder was best known for its fluorescent lime green jerseys.

The original XFL's Orlando Rage went 8-2 in its only season in 2001, losing to the San Francisco Demons 26-25 in the playoff semifinals. The Rage averaged 25,563 fans per game that season.

The Florida Tuskers of the United Football League advanced to the UFL Championship in each of its seasons in 2009 and 2010, dropping both games to the Las Vegas Locomotives. In 2011 they moved to Virginia and became the Virginia Destroyers. Their 2010 head coach, Jay Gruden, became the head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.

Coached by Steve Spurrier, the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football ran out to a 7-1 mark and averaged 20,191 fans before the league ceased operations.

The new XFL Orlando franchise will play at Camping World Stadium which hosted the Orlando Rage in 2001. Head Coach Terrell Buckley, who played at Florida State and with the Miami Dolphins, has local ties which should help gain interest in the area.

San Antonio also has a lengthy history of alternative football.

The San Antonio Wings played at Alamo Stadium in the World Football League in 1975. Their head coach was Perry Moss who went on to win 86 games as a coach in the Arena Football League. The Wings went 7-6, winning all seven home games and losing all six road games, before the league folded on October 22, 1975.

The San Antonio Gunslingers played in the United States Football League in 1984 and 1985, also at Alamo Stadium. Quarterback Rick Neuheisel, who would later become coach of the AAF's Arizona Hotshots, was their most recognizable player. The under-financed Gunslingers went 7-11 in 1984 and averaged 15,444 fans. In 1985 the team missed several payrolls, but players continued playing. The Gunslingers finished at 5-13, the second worst record in the USFL, averaging just 11,721 fans.

The San Antonio Riders played in the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992. They were coached by Mike Riley, current head coach of the USFL's New Jersey Generals. In 1991 the Riders went 4-6 at Alamo Stadium and averaged 14,853 fans. In 1992 they were forced to play at Bobcat Stadium at Texas State University. That season they finished 7-3 but missed the playoffs. After the 1992 season the WLAF went on hiatus and soon left all its American markets.

The San Antonio Texans, an out-of-the-way Canadian Football League franchise in 1995, were previously the Sacramento Gold Miners, a franchise which relocated to San Antonio after playing the 1993 and 1994 season in California. The squad was coached by Kay Stephenson and played at the Alamodome. It finished the season 12-6 thanks to the solid play of veteran quarterback David Archer who passed for 4,471 yards with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions. They defeated the Birmingham Barracudas in the Southern Semifinal 52-9 before losing to the Baltimore Stallions in the Southern Final 21-11. The Texans had respectable attendance with an average of 15,855 fans. After the 1995 season, the CFL retreated north, abandoning its American experiment, and the Texans folded.

In addition to a two-game experiment with the San Antonio Matadors of the Spring Football League in 2000, San Antonio also has seen two Arena Football League teams: the San Antonio Force and San Antonio Talons. The Force played in the AFL in the 1992 season at the HemisFair Arena. They will be remembered as the first and only team in league history to be shutout, losing to the Orlando Predators 50-0 on June 13, 1992. They finished the season 2-8 and then promptly folded. Arena Football returned in 2012 when the Tulsa Talons moved to San Antonio and became the San Antonio Talons. The franchise played at the Alamodome and lasted three seasons until they folded after the 2014 season.

In 2019 the AAF's San Antonio Commanders played at the Alamo Dome where they were coached by Mike Riley. They averaged 27,857 fans per game and went 5-3 before the league ceased operations.

With Arlington and Houston also in the XFL, some San Antonio fans will see road trips well within reach.

Las Vegas has a shorter history with alternative football teams.

The Las Vegas Posse played in the Canadian Football League in 1994 when it added teams to the United States. Sam Boyd Stadium hosted the franchise, and Ron Meyer served as their head coach. The team boasted future CFL Hall of Fame quarterback Anthony Calvillo at the helm, but they finished 5-13 that season and struggled to draw crowds, averaging 8,953 fans. The Posse folded after its lone campaign.

The Las Vegas Sting Arena Football team played two seasons in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Anaheim and becoming the Anaheim Piranhas. Other Arena Football teams hosted by the city included the Las Vegas Gladiators from 2003 to 2007 and the Las Vegas Outlaws in 2015.

Prior to the arrival of the Raiders, Las Vegas experienced its most off-the-field success with its XFL team in 2001 which played at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Las Vegas Outlaws were coached by Jim Criner and averaged 22,619 fans per game. Their most well-known player was running back Rod Smart who had "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey. The Outlaws finished 4-6 and the XFL ceased operations after that season.

The Las Vegas Locomotives played in the United Football League from 2009 till 2012. Coached by Jim Fassel they won championships in 2009 and 2010 but struggled to draw fans. In 2012 after four games the season was cancelled and the league never returned.

Finally, the Vegas Knight Hawks joined in the Indoor Football League in 2022.

Las Vegas coach Rod Woodson said the XFL has had preliminary discussions with Allegiant Stadium with no deal finalized yet.

Burgeoning Las Vegas will serve as an excellent road trip possibility for visiting fans. Las Vegas has drawn many new sports franchises lately including the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, NFL's Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, WNBA's Las Vegas Aces in 2018 and National Lacrosse League's Las Vegas Desert Dogs in December this season.

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