While the USFL is set to kick off this weekend, and the XFL is not scheduled to play until next year, the latter has done a good job of keeping in the news. In this third incarnation of the league, now headlined by Dwayne Johnson as its most prominent owner, we can expect even more rule tweaks, which is common in these alternative leagues.
But the man who helmed that job in the 2020 rendition of the XFL will be back on board. Earlier this week, the league announced that former NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino would be returning in the role of Vice President of Officiating and Playing Rules Innovation.
Blandino was perhaps the last respected head of officiating that the NFL has had, succeeding Mike Pereira. His decision to step down was surprising to many, instead opting to work in broadcasting and explore other opportunities, where he has only further raised his profile.
“Dean has been the go-to name in professional and collegiate football officiating for over a decade”, Russ Brandon, the league president, said in a statement. “We have the rare opportunity to develop new, innovative rules for this league and Dean’s unique perspective and expert experience are integral to achieving that before we hit the field in 2023”.
It was already announced earlier this offseason that the XFL would collaborate with the NFL in minor ways, including in working to implement new rules. Alternative leagues often serve as a testing ground for new rules and variations before the NFL is willing to adopt them.
“Football is a dynamic and ever evolving sport with increasing global appeal”, Blandino offered in his own statement. “From my time in the NFL through to the XFL, my focus has always been on bringing forward ideas and structure that can continue to support the game we love and allow it to grow into the future. Football is my passion and it’s an exciting time to be a part of the XFL as they build a dynamic game that will appeal to fans and players”.
Although the second incarnation of the XFL in 2020 was off to a relative success, its inaugural season just so happened to coincide with the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, which forced it to shutter after just half a season’s play.
Although it was originally stated that they intended to return, Vince McMahon decided to shut the company down. It was ultimately purchased by an ownership group including Johnson and Dany Garcia, his longtime business partner, along with Gerry Cardinale through RedBird Capital Partners.
Just recently, former Pittsburgh Steelers players Hines Ward and Rod Woodson were named two of the eight head coaches of the XFL’s teams set to play in 2023. They join Bob Stoops, Wade Phillips, Jim Haslett, Terrell Buckley, Anthony Becht, and Reggie Barlow.