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XFL announces TV partnerships with ESPN and Fox

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Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The latest attempt at a Spring football league is Vince McMahon’s reboot of the XFL coming in 2020. And one of the key components to McMahon’s attempt to compete with an off-season football league was announced on Monday.

That’s when, the XFL revealed that they had struck deals with ABC/ESPN and Fox  to broadcast their regular season and playoff games. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand had the story first on Monday morning:

The XFL will follow the same schedule pattern that the now-defunct Alliance of American Football tried this past winter. That is: begin play the week after the Super Bowl in February of 2020, running a 10 week regular season before playing two semifinal games in April and then, a championship game on April 26th.

One of the eight cities that will be participating in the inaugural relaunch is Tampa. That franchise will play its games at Raymond James Stadium, which also hosts the NFL’s Buccaneers and college games from the University of South Florida. The Tampa XFL team will be coached by former Bears head coach, longtime CFL head coach and NFL offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman.

Other notable XFL coaches that have been announced include, former Oklahoma college national champion coach Bob Stoops coaching the Dallas franchise and Seattle’s XFL Squad will be coached by former Seahawks quarterback and briefly, Redskins head coach Jim Zorn.

Back to the broadcasting deal, ABC/ESPN and Fox have agreed to divvy up 24 National TV games and pay for the production of each according to Ourand’s sources.

Oliver Luck (above), a former NFL quarterback, who was previously the Big XII conference commissioner and also recently worked as a senior executive for the NCAA, is the new commissioner of the XFL. He told SBJ Monday that having the games repeatedly on ABC and Fox (as well as ESPN) will be large,

“The only game that the Alliance had on broadcast was their opening game on CBS. One of the lessons we took away was that they had a pretty good rating,” Luck said. “It shows that Americans still want to watch football the week after the Super Bowl.”

The games will be rotated between ABC, Fox, ESPN and FS1 largely during the day for most Saturdays and Sundays for the first eight weeks of the season. That will lead up to two, Thursday Night Primetime games that will air on Fox in the first two weeks of April before the XFL’s playoffs.

The XFL semifinals will be televised Saturday afternoon April 18th on Fox and Sunday April 19th by ESPN also in the afternoon. Then, ESPN gets the inaugural championship game the following Sunday afternoon, April 26th.

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NFL announced Wednesday Pro Bowl back in Orlando

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is obviously happy with Orlando as its location for its postseason Pro Bowl All-Star Game, and they demonstrated that again on Wednesday morning.

That’s when the league announced that for the fourth consecutive year the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl will be played at Camping World Stadium the weekend before the Super Bowl:

For the last three years, the All-Star game has called Orlando it’s home, and there’s no doubt that football fans in Central Florida (and all over the country) have enjoyed coming to Central Florida to be part of the festivities that week.

However, the game itself has come under increasing criticism, and rightfully so, as the players involved seem less and less interested in it actually being a football game.

In fact, we went so far as to say that the NFL should stop playing the game, as it has devolved into a mockery of what a “football game” should look like. Here’s part of what we wrote last January:

At the risk of being criticized for being reactionary or even like Clint Eastwood and “Get off my lawn,” no one can defend any longer what we’re seeing, as anything that resembles a football game.

No you can’t defend something that used to be at least an aggressive and fun All-Star Game featuring the NFL’s best players, but that has devolved into a farce.

A farce where no one wants to block, much less tackle anyone.

This was on full display from the beginning of the game on the dreary damp Sunday in Orlando. This as, handoffs would go to running backs, who would run into the massive bodies at the line where players were not blocking the players in front of them. And, the referees would eventually just blow the whistle with everyone standing around.

Quarterbacks would throw the ball down the field to receivers, who were running 3/4 speed against defensive backs who were running a 3/4 speed and both might, or might not, try to make the catch or play on the ball.

Yes, there was an occasional moment, where are you saw flashes with a significant throw or runner would break free, but make no mistake: what the Pro Bowl has become, gradually over the last few years, and now on full display Sunday, is not football.

It’s not even close.

Nonetheless, the Pro Bowl will continue and be televised again this season by ESPN on Sunday afternoon January 26th. The Super Bowl will be played the following week in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium.

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Tampa Bay/NFL media stunned by sudden death of writer Don Banks

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The outpouring of sympathy and stories continues for longtime NFL writer Don Banks, who passed away suddenly early Sunday morning in Canton, Ohio, while covering the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

The 57 year old Banks had recently been hired by the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper to become their NFL writer / cover the Raiders, when they arrive to town in 2020. He was at the induction ceremony Saturday night, but was found non-responsive in his Canton hotel room, apparently dying in his sleep:

However, that’s the end of his  25+ year NFL media career.

He actually began his long NFL writing career in Tampa Bay working for the then- St Petersburg Times, and covering the Buccaneers.

Banks worked for the Times on the Bucs beat in the 1990s in and around coaches Sam Wyche and Tony Dungy.

Several Tampa Bay media members and former co-workers expressed sympathy and remembrances after the news had broken Sunday, ESPN Bucs reporter Jenna Laine tweeted this:

Current Watch Stadium college football insider, Brett McMurphy, talked about Banks’ roots with him, as a high school sports reporter in Tampa Bay:

Meanwhile, Banks’ former colleague at the Times and current Buccaneers beat writer, Rick Stroud talked at length with fond remembrances and stories on his podcast about Banks that was released Monday morning. Those stories dated back to Banks covering the orange “Bucco Bruce” Buccaneers three decades ago:

Banks left Tampa and worked in Minnesota as a Vikings beat writer for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and later jumped to Sports Illustrated, where he worked for nearly 20 years, including helping develop their extensive digital coverage of the NFL.

They remembered him fondly and sadly, as well:

Banks had been working for the past few years for The Athletic out of Boston, covering the Patriots and the National Football League before being hired earlier this summer in Las Vegas.

Ironically, Banks’ first work for the Vegas paper ran Sunday morning, on the day that he died. He wrote about the Cleveland Browns transitioning from having been covered extensively in training camp last year by HBO’s Hard Knocks to a new coaching staff, etc. for this year.

Banks is survived by his second wife and his adult children from a previous marriage. And, it’s obvious that he had tremendous impact, especially with a lot of young and up-and-coming reporters in the business.

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