Though it only survived one season, the XFL was a special endeavor. It was the unholy merger between professional football, one of America’s most treasured and lucrative pastimes, and professional wrestling, a lucrative yet infinitely less respectable spectacle. It was also a colossal flop. But that hasn’t deterred Vince McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, from pursuing his plan to revive the long-defunct league. And to help him do it, the wrestling legend has tapped Oliver Luck, father of pro football player Andrew Luck, to serve as CEO.
The decision is strange for any number of reasons, not least of which is that Oliver Luck’s buttoned-up demeanor hardly fits a flamboyant football league with semi-scripted storylines and an emphasis on a more no-holds-barred style of play. He’s neither spicy nor controversial, which is probably why he’s actually a smart fit to run the league. Then again, according to Luck, McMahon has said he wants the new XFL to be much tamer than its previous iteration. “We want to be family-friendly and affordable,” Luck noted. “Vince said the raunchy concept of the original XFL will not be repeated. I agree with that 100 percent.”
Secondly, Luck had a very cushy gig as the number two at the NCAA, a generally venerated organization. Okay, venerated might be a bit too generous — but as an organization, the NCAA is comparatively straight-laced and happened to not tank after one season. By the sound of it, though, McMahon may just have presented Luck with an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
“It’s not often that an opportunity to build a professional football league from scratch comes along,” Luck said. “I came away very impressed with Vince, but also in the key ingredients for a viable launch and to keep this thing viable for the long haul.”
Still, Luck is no rookie to the pro sports hustle. He managed NFL Europe for a few years and worked as the chief executive officer of the Houston Sports Authority before becoming the president of Houston’s Major League Soccer franchise, the Dynamo.
With the Luck selection, it’s clear the rebooted XFL is striving for legitimacy. There will be an emphasis on player safety, shorter games, and standing for the national anthem. On top of that, no ex-cons will be admitted into the league. If that’s the game plan, then Luck is surely the brand of milquetoast McMahon and the XFL need.