On Saturday, April 5, the West Florida Ravens of Santa Rosa County take on the South Alabama Seminoles in an inner conference clash at the Roger Scott Athletic Complex in Pensacola. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. for the second game of the Ravens' regular season. The team is looking for a win after a close defeat by the Coastal Destroyers of Panama City, by a score of 20 to 14, in a rivalry Coach McKnight of the Ravens described as the "battle for the coast." Last year, McKnight not only coached but played as well in the first year of the team's existence. These names may sound unfamiliar because they belong to the Xtreme South Football League (XSFL), founded by Commissioner Dan Todd.
Todd said it's a "second chance league" as players come from arena football, high school, and college. Todd said some are plumbers, others electricians, and some from Wal-Mart. He said players "put their pads on at night" and "take vacation time to play." Todd said, "we need to have that voice for those that don't have a team."
According to Todd, XSFL players do not receive any kind of pay because the league adheres to the NCAA clause barring potential college players from receiving earnings for play thereby ensuring college eligibility for any XSFL high school players. McKnight said nobody in the Ravens "puts any money in their pockets." He said money goes to uniforms, transportation, and field costs. Todd said most of the money to run the teams comes from the owners' pockets at a cost of $20,000 to $35,000 per year with costs coming from stadium fees, security, and a million dollar liability policy. Todd also said, "Players have a fee to cover uniforms." He also said, "Players buy their own helmets and pads." McKnight said he has a "huge passion for football," and the players are a "bunch of guys who love playing the game."
McKnight said he prefers the term "minor league" over "semi-pro" because, he said, the Ravens are a professional team that doesn't get paid, like the volunteer fire department. The team follows a full off season, has full practices, full contact, and "the full nine yards" according to McKnight, and no one gets paid. Todd said he views the "whole game as a production" with music and proper introductions.
McKnight said the team's goal is to fill the void of football in the spring. Todd said some sponsors the league approaches see XSFL as a good thing. "It keeps kids off the streets and gives kids something to do during winter," Todd said.
McKnight said they haven't had television coverage yet, but ESPN radio has picked them up. "We're all further than we were yesterday," he said.