It’s backkkk. With Vince McMahon announced the return of the XFL in 2020, rumors and speculation started running rampant as to which cities could be on the short list for the league. McMahon did say today that he would consider NFL cities, even citing Pittsburgh. That’s an absurd idea. Back in the XFL’s lone 2001 season, the league carried eight franchises in Birmingham, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York/New Jersey, Orlando and San Francisco. So he tried to tap some NFL markets and that was a part of the reason the league failed. McMahon would be wise to venture into mid-sized cities that don’t have an NFL franchise, in which case there are a handful of Big 12 cities that could make the list. Plus, considering he’s made it pretty obvious he’s going to try and take away NFL fans that are sick of the politicization of the NFL, he’d be wise to avoid the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York crowd. That doesn’t really jive with what it appears McMahon is going for.
So let’s look at some of the Big 12 cities that could be a fit.
First, let’s cross Waco, Lawrence, Manhattan and Stillwater off the list. Waco is stuck between Austin and DFW, the league would just go to Austin. Manhattan and Lawrence, nope. Maybe Kansas City? Stillwater, nah, just go to OKC or Tulsa, but more likely OKC. I also don’t think Fort Worth makes any sense. Playing in the shadows of Jerry Jones is not a good idea, and considering the grudges Jones appears to hold (i.e.: Goodell, Roger), even an ego like Vince McMahon is probably wise enough to stay away. Plus, that market is oversaturated as is.
So that leaves us with the following options to discuss: Oklahoma City, Lubbock, Des Moines, Morgantown and Austin. Let’s address the pros and cons of each.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
First thought: Where will they play? Well, it looks like Oklahoma City is still moving ahead with a soccer stadium that should be done by 2020. Perfect timing for Vince McMahon. You have a city that has proved it will support a professional franchise with the Oklahoma City Thunder in town and proving to be an incredibly popular and successful organization. The Thunder pull fans from OKC, Tulsa, every rural community in the state and even Wichita. It’s really a regional team in a sports-crazed region. And not just sports-crazed, but specifically football-crazed. The downtown area in Bricktown had made OKC very attractive to outside business and is a very nice setting and atmosphere for anyone who’s been in the area. The demographics? Well Oklahoma is the only state where every county voted for Trump in 2016. Ding, ding, ding.
OKC Potential: 8/10
Another city that is on the verge welcoming in a new soccer stadium thanks to the MLS’ Columbus Crew (hopefully) picking up and moving south. Of course, Austin has a strong football core, but it’s also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country thanks to its business friendly environment and educated workforce. Austin has the old Austinites, the folks who are old school football fans through and through. Then there’s the California, hipster, borderline socialist crowd that is infiltrating the city from other parts of the country, most notably, California. How will the latter half feel about McMahon demanding players stand for the National Anthem? McMahon has clearly taken a swipe at some of the NFL’s mishandlings of social issues. And the old school Austinites, they get their fill with high school football, the Longhorns and the Cowboys. Are they really football starved enough to want more? I guess we could find out.
Austin Potential: 7/10
Sure it’s kind of secluded out there in West Texas, but hell, it’s West Texas! Combine football with a largely conservative bend and everyone from Amarillo to Abilene will at least have some interest. They would probably have to play at Jones AT&T Stadium, which would not be a problem since the league wants to begin play in January or February of 2020. Lubbock of course may not be as desirable as Oklahoma City or Austin, and once again, it’s not the easiest to get to, but the football passion and ideology is about as good as Vince McMahon could ask for.
Lubbock Potential: 5/10
Des Moines, Iowa
Of course it’s not a true Big 12 city, but it’s down the road from Ames and Des Moines has a history with sports. It hosts professional minor league teams in baseball, basketball, hockey, indoor football, and soccer, and is home to Division I Drake University. In fact, in 2017, Des Moines was ranked as the #1 Minor League Sports city in the US by SportsBusiness Journal. But facility wise, it might need some work. The Buccaneer Arena in Urbandale gets some use (3,000 capacity), but the minor league soccer team plays in a high school stadium. Principal Park is the minor league baseball stadium that only holds 10,000. The best bet is probably Wells Fargo Arena holding about 16,000. I don’t think any of these are big enough for what McMahon has in mind. Could they drive 45 minutes north to Ames? I suppose. But once again, it doesn’t fit McMahon’s visit of “big”. That feels a little rinky dink to have to have his guys bus up 35 miles for the game. I think there would be solid support, but in terms of the other factors, I just don’t know if it is one of the better fits.
Des Moines Potential: 5/10
Morgantown is the smallest city, by far, on our list. But man, Morgantown would be quite a scene for the XFL. McMahon could peal off some of the Pittsburgh Steelers fans, without being right in their backyard. He could get solid support from a rabid college fan base, and also bring a sense of state pride to West Virginia in giving the state its first “pro” team, a la, what the Thunder did for Oklahoma, of course on a much smaller scale. The demographics in terms of reaching Trump County and disenfranchised NFL fans is ideal. The team could easily play at Milan Puskar Stadium with no conflict. The city may ultimately just not be big enough and have the other facilities that are needed to host an XFL team. But it’s definitely an interesting option. Plus the thought of Johnny Manziel crushing High Street on a nightly basis and pretty enticing.
Morgantown Potential: 4/10
Let us know your thoughts to these cities and any others in the Big 12 region we may have missed out on in the comments below!