WASHINGTON The struggling XFL will back next year, with
or without NBC, the league's president said Tuesday.
Visiting the nation's capital to discuss expansion, Basil DeVito
also candidly discussed the numerous mistakes made by a league
whose television ratings have reached historic lows.
"We're going to be here," DeVito said. "There was a business
plan in place prior to NBC coming in to the XFL, and that business
plan still exists, still makes sense."
Over the weekend, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said there
would have to be an increase in ratings for the network to keep the
league on the air.
The league's Week 8 broadcast Saturday night drew a 1.8 rating,
up from 1.6 in Week 7 believed to be the lowest prime-time night
among NBC, ABC or CBS in Nielsen Media Research history.
The XFL's ratings on NBC had plummeted since the debut earned a
9.5 rating, falling steadily until Week 5 and Week 6 both drew 2.4.
This weekend represents the first time the show hadn't dropped from
the week before.
DeVito said if NBC does pull the plug, the XFL would maintain
its broadcast agreements with UPN and cable network TNN, where
DeVito said the ratings have "faired very well." Without NBC in
the picture, DeVito said the league would consider moving its
feature games from Saturday nights to the more traditional football
viewing period of Sunday afternoon.
After a promising debut that won its time period on NBC, the
XFL's ratings have plummeted. The Week 7 broadcast was believed to
be the lowest-rated prime-time program ever on one of the three
"There are some things that quite frankly we were unprepared
for," DeVito said. "We didn't do everything well out of the
A 50-50 venture between NBC and the World Wrestling Federation,
the XFL had the benefit of two great promotional machines to get
off the ground. What got lost, DeVito said, was the actual game of
"We probably didn't give our football operations enough time to
create a football product on the field," DeVito said.
DeVito said the league has listened to fan input. A football
analyst is now in the broadcast booth, and the league is trying
harder to market recognizable "star" players.
"Please give us one Kurt Warner," said DeVito, a reference to
the NFL's 1999 MVP whose Arena Football League background gave the
AFL some free, positive publicity.
As the league enters its final weeks, DeVito said the teams have
evolved to the point where they are playing decent football. Drew
Pearson, general manager of the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, agreed.
"Is it what I expected? It's coming now to be what I
expected," Pearson said. "The emphasis now is on football."
Despite the new emphasis on the game itself, DeVito said the XFL
was not taking the path of other unsuccessful football leagues,
such as the WFL and USFL. The key, he said, was striking a balance.
"The XFL will always have a distinctly contemporary attitude,"
DeVito said. "That is what will separate us from anything that is
Though expansion may seem like an untimely topic, DeVito said
the visit to Washington was consistent with a long-held plan to add
two to four teams in 2002 or 2003. He said a decision to expand
next year would have to be made by June.
While television ratings have been disappointing, DeVito said
the XFL will average 25,000 fans per game this season 5,000
better than the league's target. He said the in-stadium innovations
large video screens, better sound systems, microphones catching
the players' and coaches' interactions have been successful.
A Washington franchise would play at RFK Stadium, former home of
the Redskins. While many professional leagues have cities
practically begging for a franchise, D.C. sports official Bobby
Goldwater said there has to be some negotiating before the league
is greeted with open arms.
"Right now we've decided we're going to see if we want to
date," Goldwater said. "And then we'll see if we're going to go
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