Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball,and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.
The XFL had a major officiating controversy at the end of a game between the Houston Roughnecks and Seattle Dragons on March 7. The way the league handled it could set an example for the NFL, a league that has struggled to improve its officiating for years.
The Roughnecks led the Dragons, 32-23, with the clock running down at the end of the fourth quarter. Instead of throwing the ball out-of-bounds on fourth down to kill the remainder of the clock, Houston quarterback PJ Walker took a knee with two seconds remaining. The play should have resulted in a turnover on downs, granting Seattle one last shot at the end zone from Houston’s 21-yard line (West, 2020).
Seattle would have had a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and three-point conversion. Instead, the clock ran out, the referees left the field, and the game was declared over. ABC announcers Steve Levy and Greg McElroy immediately called out the officiating crew. McElroy said, “It can’t happen. It absolutely can’t happen. It is inexcusable,” (Werner, 2020, para. 5). When they asked officiating supervisor Wes Booker why the game was called with time on the clock, he admitted his mistake but claimed that he could not bring the teams and officials back for the final play. In USA Today writer Barry Werner’s words (2020, para. 4), “The replay official told ABC the game was over and there was nothing they could do about it, somehow.”
Later that evening, the XFL reassigned Booker and released a statement apologizing for the mistake. Dan Lyons wrote, “Good on the XFL for getting a statement and apology out very quickly,” (2020, para. 7).
The XFL’s quick response to the situation was impressive for the league, especially in a time where fans, players, and coaches are frustrated with the officiating in the larger NFL. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians called out the NFL in 2019, stating that, “My biggest thing is, referees aren’t held accountable,” (Seifert, 2019, para. 25). The NFL and XFL officiating crews have different levels of exposure, and the transparency of the XFL is what allowed Booker to be held accountable for his mistake. In the XFL, all officials are mic’d up throughout the game, and the access to the officiating supervisor in the booth made it possible to immediately ask for his reasoning behind calling the game early.
All plays are booth reviewable in the XFL, with a replay official in the stadium. In the NFL, plays are only booth reviewable for the last two minutes of each half, and the replay official is at a central command center in New York (Schwartz, 2020). Since officials are mic’d up in the XFL, fans can listen to the booth official’s conversation with the on-field referees and understand the reasoning for either overturning or upholding a call.
Geoff Schwartz claims, “The NFL is already in need of an officiating overhaul and letting people in on the review process would go a long way to making nice with everyone involved” (2020, para. 14). Taking a page out of the XFL’s playbook could be the solution the NFL needs to help restore integrity to its officiating and improve the in-game experience for players and fans alike.
Brody Hickle grew up in Bluffton, Ohio and now studies Sport Management at Bowling Green State University. The third-year undergraduate student minors in General Business. His primary sport interests are hockey and football.
Today, I heard about the coronavirus hitting in Ohio (which is my home state), so I wanted to write about how the disease has been affecting the world of sports. I have many friends who attend Ohio State University, and when I saw the news that they were suspending classes for 20 days, I was more than shocked. First, before I talk about how the disease is affecting the world of sports, I did some research on the symptoms athletes and other individuals can get from the coronavirus, and the symptoms include difficulty in breathing, fever, and coughs (CDC, 2020).
So far, we have seen several cases of the coronavirus affecting sporting events and other activities across the world. When I began writing this, Italy suspended all sporting events until April 3rd, due to the coronavirus. In the sports world, they aren’t just focusing on athletes. They are also focusing on and taking precautions with the media. Jeff Passan (writer/reporter for ESPN) was mentioned in an article updated by another reporter, Randy Miller, stating that the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLS has restricted media access due to the spread of the coronavirus. In the article, Miller states that in Clearwater, Florida (a popular location for spring training baseball), the New York Yankees decided that for an hour early in the morning, they would allow interviews from the media, because they wanted to keep out of the clubhouses at restricted times due to the concerns of the outbreak.
In Jeff Passan’s part of the article, he said, “Major League Baseball will join the NBA and NHL in closing clubhouses to media due to fear over potential spread of coronavirus, sources tell ESPN. After a conference call with owners Monday evening, MLB remains committed to playing the remainder of the slate of spring-training games as well as opening the regular season on time, the plan, like so many, is contingent on how the coronavirus spreads,” (Miller, para. 4-5, 2020).
I think this is a smart move for the MLB because they don’t want to suspend games like there already have been. Obviously, it is important to keep the athletes, coaches, and everybody else safe. I’m sure that some people working in the media may not be as happy with this move, because they only have one hour to ask questions to the athletes or coaches, and they may not get a big selection of who they can talk to. I wonder how long this disease will continue to affect the world, because we obviously are not just seeing it in sports, but we are seeing it affect companies, schools, and many other businesses around the world.
On March 11, the NBA suspended their regular season, and the NHL did the same the next day. While the NBA was making the decision, the media announced that two Utah Jazz stars (Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell) were tested positive for the coronavirus. From what I have noticed, a lot of fans are not happy with this decision. Being a huge NHL fan, I agree with both of these moves, as I did for the MLB. Again, it is not just happening in sports. On the same day the NBA decided to suspend the regular season, many schools (including mine) moved classes to online to help students avoid the coronavirus as much as possible. Going back to the leagues suspending their seasons, I think they did it more than for keeping the athletes safe. They also want to keep the fans safe. I believe that it is a safe and smart move by the leagues. If any league has a fan tested positive from attending an event, how is that going to look good for the organization? Personally, it is a move I would have made.
Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey
On February 20, 2020, two of the top heavyweight boxers in today’s game met in Las Vegas for a championship bout. WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder stood across the legendary Irish giant Tyson Fury for a rematch years in the making. With the WBC Heavyweight Championship on the line, boxing was ready to shine again.
Wilder and Fury met once before in December 2018, where their bout drew 325 thousand pay-per-view (PPV) viewers, which was the tenth largest PPV audience for a fight since the Paquiao-Mayweather superfight in 2015 (World Boxing News, 2019). Their first fight was a wildly entertaining disputed draw ending that captivated viewers. It didn’t do much, however, to push boxing back to the forefront of the casual sports viewer. It did create a perfect backdrop to a fight that may be able to bring boxing back to its former glory.
After all the announcements and pre-fight press conferences, the hype for Fury-Wilder II was at its peak. FOX and ESPN decided to co-promote the bout, which pushed it to an even larger audience than their first fight. Pre-fight PPV estimates ranged from 1 to 2 million viewers (John Wall Street, 2020a). For context, that would be the most viewed PPV fight since the Paquiao-Mayweather fight that drew in 4.6 million viewers, but turned them away bored and disappointed by their purchase (World Boxing News, 2019). The hope is that this superfight can leave viewers happier than the failings of Paquiao-Mayweather.
Amid all the theatrics of putting on a fight, like Fury coming out on a chariot adorning a crown and Wilder wearing a 45 pound costume that may or may not have slowed him during the fight, was a wildly entertaining championship match. Tyson Fury dominated Deontay Wilder throughout the seven-round bout, and ended the battle in a stunning TKO victory with 1:39 left in the round (Campbell, 2020).
After the hype and dust settled on the Gypsy King’s massive victory, the shine of boxing seemed on the borderline to return. The fight brought in an unprecedented $17 million in gate sales, which passed the gate record set by Lewis-Holyfield II in 1999 (Mazique, 2020). There were also between 800,000 and 850,000 PPV sales of the match, which is the fifth most watched fight since Mayweather-Paqiuao (John Wall Street, 2020b; World Boxing News, 2019). While the number of sales was much lower than initial estimates, it is believed that between 10 and 20 million people illegally streamed the fight (John Wall Street, 2020b). Illegal streams don’t help the sales and money generation for the fighters, promoters and everyone else involved, but they are a large indicator of the interest in boxing. With possibly 30 million viewers, Wilder-Fury II would easily eclipse the known 1.3 million viewers of Mayweather-Paquiao (World Boxing News, 2019).
Twitter seemed to collectively enjoy the fight, with many influential athletes praising Fury’s performance. High-profile athletes such as LeBron James and JJ Watt showed the fight’s successes, along with reactions from other high-profile sportscasters like Jemele Hill.
One fight is not indicative of the return of boxing, but a success like Wilder-Fury II definitely helps. When people think of boxing, the most thought of modern fight is the Mayweather-Pacquiao snoozefest that drove away the hype of the sport. Now, an entertaining, classic title fight has taken the reigns and can drive more people to the sport. So, is boxing back? No, not yet, but the increased interest and media coverage will certainly help the sport return to the forefront of American sports coverage.
Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball,and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.
The NFL season may be over, but football still continues as the XFL enters its fifth week of play. In its second stint after the original league’s failure in 2001, the XFL features modified rules and some familiar faces looking for a second chance at a football career. Through four weeks, the league has received substantial TV coverage with all games broadcasted on ABC, FOX, FS1, and ESPN (Guzman, 2020), and attendance saw a consistent rise for three straight weeks before dropping in Week 4 (Lombardo, 2020). However, the XFL’s attendance figures appear to be on track to reach commissioner Oliver Luck’s standards for its first year if fans continue to show up.
Prior to Week 4, Luck expressed approval of the league’s returns in attendance and television ratings, acknowledging that, “we’ve got a long way to go, still. … (But) I think we’ve got something that we can build on” (Schad, 2020, para. 3). According to XFL News Hub, a total of 298,259 fans have attended games through the first four weeks with each matchup averaging 18,641 spectators (Lombardo, 2020). Some cities are gathering significantly more interest than others — for example, St. Louis and Seattle averaged 29,554 and 22,060 fans, respectively, in their Week 3 home games compared to Tampa Bay’s 18,117 and Los Angeles’ 12,211 in the same weekend (XFLNewsHub, 2020) — but overall, the league is hovering above their end-of-season attendance goal, which they hope to see in the mid-teens at the end of the season (Schad, 2020).
St. Louis and Seattle have notably done well with attendance numbers, hosting the three most-attended games through Week 4 (Kercheval, 2020). While all eight teams are in established football markets, both of these cities are unique as they both lack a variety of professional teams playing during the winter and early spring months. Seattle’s “12th Man” eagerly supports the Seahawks during the NFL season, but the city currently lacks an NBA or NHL team to draw fans between the Super Bowl and the opening of the MLB and MLS seasons. As the only professional team playing during those months besides Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves (Saul, 2020), the Dragons have received a strong fan turnout. St. Louis was the home of the NFL’s Rams before they left for Los Angeles four years ago (Kercheval, 2020), and they also lack an NBA team. The fans are hungry for football and flock in mass numbers to “The Dome” to watch the BattleHawks play.
The BattleHawks are the East Division’s best team so far, currently holding a 3-1 record due to the stellar play of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and running back Matt Jones. Ta’amu ranks second in the XFL in passing yards (876 yards) and fifth in rushing yards (186 yards) through four weeks, and Jones is second overall in rushing yards with 244 yards for St. Louis (“Stat Leaders,” 2020). The team has been receiving attention from the media in recent days due to their strong start and positive reception in the city of St. Louis. ESPN’s Brendan Meyer (2020) recently wrote a feature on the return of football to St. Louis after a 1,529-day drought. “For now, no matter what happens, the love that St. Louis has shown the BattleHawks is entertaining and real, a perfect match between a fringe NFL city and a team of fringe NFL players,” Meyer writes (para. 55). In fact, St. Louis loves their team so much that “The Dome” will open more seating in their upper deck for Week 7’s game against the LA Wildcats, according to Ben Kercheval (2020). Cody Benjamin (2020, para. 6) writes that the BattleHawks would “give Houston a run for their money,” referring to the league-leading Roughnecks.
The Houston Roughnecks are the last undefeated team in the XFL, led by quarterback P.J. Walker, an early MVP favorite, and veteran coach June Jones. Walker is likely the league’s most heavily-covered player due to his journey from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad to the Houston Roughnecks. Undrafted out of Temple, he was with the Colts on and off for two years before being cut before the 2019 NFL season (Barshop, 2020). Walker found a spot in Houston thanks to Oliver Luck’s son, retired Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who recommended that his father offer him a position in the XFL. Just three weeks into the season, Sarah Barshop wrote, “If Walker continues to play the way he has in the first three weeks of the XFL season, he’ll likely get another chance to compete for an NFL roster spot” (para. 19).
Walker fits in nicely into head coach June Jones’ system. The veteran college, USFL, NFL, and CFL coach is notably a “pioneer of the run and shoot offence” (Andrews, 2017, para. 2), something that has rarely been brought up by the media. According to Ben Andrews (2017), the offense was founded by Glenn “Tiger” Ellison in the 1950s as a no-huddle offense where the receivers’ only responsibility was to get open. Darrell “Mouse” Davis introduced the run-and-shoot offense at Portland State, where June Jones was one of his starting quarterbacks, and Jones became widely known for using it with his own teams. He modified the offense to use the shotgun formation and an offset running back at the University of Hawaii, helping Rainbow Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan set the Division-I record for touchdown passes in a season in 2006. After taking over as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ head coach after the Canadian team started out 0-8 in 2017, Jones once again used the run-and-shoot offense to lead the Ticats to a 6-4 record in the final ten games of the season (“2017 Regular Season,” n.d.).
According to Jones, the run-and-shoot offense is most effective with a quarterback with passing accuracy and speed (Andrews, 2017). Walker leads the XFL in passing yards through Week 4 with 987 yards (“Stat Leaders,” 2020). Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips has also played a major role in the offense, catching 21 passes for a league-high 333 yards and 7 touchdowns through the first four games, averaging 15.9 yards per reception (“Cam Phillips,” 2020). The Roughnecks should always be favored with Walker under center in the eyes of Cody Benjamin (2020).
Excluding Walker and Ta’amu, the XFL’s quarterback situation has been a cause for concern for members of the media. Brad Gagnon claims that “the XFL’s shoddy quarterback play has held it back” (2020, para. 5). Bill Bender (2020) suggests that the league could have a “quarterback crisis” early in its existence. Through Week 3, each team averaged 216.1 passing yards per game, falling between Mitchell Trubisky and Joe Flacco’s numbers from the 2019 season. That would be good for 22nd in the league last year. In Week 4, Cardale Jones’ DC Defenders were shut out by the previously winless Tampa Bay Vipers, Brandon Silvers was benched for B.J. Daniels in Seattle, former Pittsburgh Steeler and current Dallas Renegades quarterback Landry Jones turned over the ball four times and was injured late in the game against Houston. Luis Perez made his first start for the New York Guardians in place of the injured Matt McGloin, and Josh Johnson has played well in his starts for the LA Wildcats, but both teams are sitting in the bottom half of Cody Benjamin’s power ranking heading into Week 5 (2020). Tampa Bay Vipers backup quarterback Quinton Flowers even requested a trade, hoping for a larger role in the offense (Bumbaca, 2020).
In Bill Bender’s words, “Walker needs to be the rule, not the exception” (2020, para. 5).
Despite the quarterback struggles that the league is facing, the XFL has received widespread praise throughout its first month. The league first game on ABC had 3.3 million viewers, topping the Duke vs North Carolina game from the night before, and the XFL Instagram account has surpassed 500,000 followers (Guzman, 2020). Television broadcasts feature mic’d up coaches, players, and officials as well as in-game interviews on the sidelines (Gagnon, 2020). During Week 1, Doug Gottlieb tweeted about the open mics and JJ Watt enjoyed the sideline interviews that occurred almost immediately after critical plays throughout the game.
Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley even showed up to the LA Wildcats’ first home game in Week 2.
The league features unique rules, including a modified kickoff and three different extra point options, to increase scoring opportunities and improve safety. Citadel head coach Brent Thompson likes the new rules so much that he will implement some of them in the college’s upcoming spring game (Gaydos, 2020). “During a spring game, you usually don’t do a kickoff, because it can be a dangerous play. But the way the XFL does it is pretty safe, and it was a chance to get a special teams play executed,” Thompson said (para. 3).
The XFL also uses a unique strategy to interact with its fans through social media. Their various social media pages feature highlights, memes, fan interactions, and celebrations. Social media is used to highlight player success, creating personalities for fans to support leaguewide.
Nick Holley shouted out his parents after catching a touchdown pass for the Roughnecks.
‘Mr. Excitement” Martez Carter flipped into the end zone and discussed the play with Jenny Taft during a sideline interview.
Casey Sayles made a fan’s day by trading a BattleHawks football for a box of Thin Mints.
Defenders fans put their used beer cups to good use.
And the XFL posted this video to promote Week 5’s games.
Television exposure, social media highlights, and written coverage are providing fans a variety of viewership opportunities, drawing new supporters. Despite some critiques of the quality of play, the reception through four weeks has been relatively positive. As long as players like P.J. Walker and Jordan Ta’amu continue to draw attention, attendance stays steady, and TV ratings remain positive, the XFL could look to outlast both last year’s Alliance of American Football (AAF) and 2001’s original XFL. With six weeks of the regular season remaining, any team still has a shot at the four-team playoffs. The race will continue to heat up as April approaches, culminating with the inaugural championship game in Houston on April 26, 2020 (“Houston to Host,” 2020).
XFLBattleHawks. (2020, March 4). ST. LOUIS … you made yourselves heard! We are OFFICIALLY opening up seats in the upper deck of The Dome for our week 7 game vs LA on March 21. Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 10 AM! #RockTheDome x #ForTheLoveOfFootball [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/XFLBattleHawks/status/1235315275576348672?s=20
XFLRoughnecks. (2020, February 16). Name a better duo… I’ll wait @pjwalker_5
Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.
Over the last few weeks, sports media have been hurling football fans into a tornado of Tom Brady rumors. On Thursday, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported that Brady is anticipating entering free agency. However, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Patriots plan on retaining Brady’s services and are awaiting changes to the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union before discussing a contract. In addition, Rapoport claimed that the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Los Angeles Chargers have been in contact with a party representing Brady (Shapiro, 2020). Finally, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reported that the Patriots have been looking into bringing in the Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota (“2020 NFL Scouting Combine,” 2020). Each of those reports came out on February 27th, which has left another layer on the confusing pile of Tom Brady news.
However, sports media seems to have left one rock unturned in their search to provide an accurate report about Brady’s future. Why has that rock gone unturned? Possibly because it isn’t about the future, but about the past. Specifically, it is about Peyton Manning in the 2012 offseason. After spending fourteen seasons in Indianapolis, Peyton was cut by the Colts and found himself in a situation similar to what Brady is about to experience (“Colts release Peyton,” 2012). Since Peyton has set the blueprint for what can be expected out of free agency for future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks, that blueprint can be used to give an idea as to what Brady’s football life may look like over the next month.
First, after Peyton was released, roughly half of the league conveyed interest in the Colts’ former signal caller (Mortensen & Schefter, 2012). What does this information mean for Brady? He can expect way more attention than what he is currently receiving. Again, only about four teams have contacted Brady’s agent, so Brady should consider preparing to answer for about ten more interested employers.
Sports media and sports fan alike should also prepare for surprises. When Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are looking for a new team, no player is safe. The Denver Broncos, who won a playoff game in 2011, would end up replacing starter Tim Tebow with Manning. So, it might be wise for every quarterback to check their job security, no matter their success.
The outlier between each of these cases is the status of the players’ former teams. Since the Colts cut Manning, it is safe to say that they had zero interest in signing him. As a result, the Colts did not have to worry about stocking up their roster to attract a Super-Bowl winning quarterback. The Patriots, however, did not cut Brady, and if they want him, they might have to earn him back. Earning back Tom Brady could be tricky, as Brady’s wish list could get expensive. After a season where the Patriots’ receivers and tight ends found little success, the team could be looking into bringing in a high-level wide receiver or tight end. A signing of this nature could be enough to bring back Brady. However, the Patriots will also need to look at reloading the defense, with at least three defensive starters set to hit free agency. As if that laundry list isn’t long enough, the Patriots’ Joe Thuney, a 2nd Team All-Pro guard in 2019, is about to enter free agency and could reset the market for interior offensive linemen. Retaining each of these players would be impossible with the salary cap, so cuts, cheap veterans, or rookie starters should be expected.
There’s also the possibility that within the next seven years, a quarterback like Brady could be hitting free agency and may need a blueprint to guide them through free agency. There could also be a team like the Patriots, who may need a blueprint for life after losing their Hall-of-Fame quarterback without an immediate starter set to take over. Now would be the best time for sports media to start taking their notes in preparation.