By Lucas Swineford
Of the eight general managers the XFL will eventually hire to run
its teams, Tom Veit may have the most difficult challenge. Not only
does Veit, recently brought on board as the vice president and
general manager of Orlando, have to compete with a number of other
entertainment options in his city (Mickey Mouse, Orlando Magic,
etc.), but he has to immediately prove to a fickle football audience
that his team has got the goods.
"Football fans in Florida are among the most intelligent and
emotional anywhere. And they’re used to winning. Look at all their
teams - college, pro, arena - they all have a history of
excellence," Veit said while driving around Orlando looking for
his new office space. "Floridians won’t take anything less
Despite not having one player on his roster yet, Veit, who is
finishing up a successful tenure as senior vice president of sales
and marketing with the Tampa Bay Mutiny of Major League Soccer,
already knows how his team will make an impact with the hometown
"We’re going to have a youthful team that plays fast-paced
football and is exciting to watch all the time," he said.
"They will reflect the spirit of our community. I want a coach
who is going for it all the time on fourth-and-1."
Ahhh coaches…perhaps the one area in which Tom has an advantage
over his fellow GMs, considering the number of qualified coaches and
other recently retired football personalities currently calling the
Sunshine State home. We all know the names, but can we expect to see
one of these men roaming the Orlando sideline next February?
Veit admitted that a number of potential coaches currently
working in Florida have been identified by the XFL, but no one
candidate has been targeted. He believes selecting the first-ever
Orlando coach will be one of the most important early decisions the
team makes, and there is no need to rush into it. But he did lay
down some prerequisites: "Whoever we bring in has to make sure
they put together a team that works hard and leaves everything on
the field each week."
And Tom is confident that the people of Orlando (and the tourists
in town at the time) will come to the Citrus Bowl to watch their
team leave it all on the field. He’s not concerned with battling
the mouse and its far-reaching empire for eyeballs because he knows
the XFL will be offering the city a unique entertainment experience.
The XFL’s blend of athleticism and entertainment is something that
isn’t available at the beach, movies or theme parks. At the same
time, though, Veit realizes that the entire organization is going to
have to work hard to keep fans coming back.
As a veteran of MLS and the Arena Football League, Tom knows the
value and importance of the relationship between the team and its
fans. He’s not content with bringing fans in and asking them to
sit down for a few hours to watch a game. Veit wants to provide them
with a wonderful experience - from the ticket buying process to the
concession stand. He wants captivate the fans from the minute they
step in the building until the minute they leave. Whether it’s
through pyrotechnic displays, music, scoreboard animations or
contests, Tom wants the fans to walk out exhausted.
"Fans are the single most important thing in this industry;
without them we are nothing," Veit said. "You have to
appreciate them and the relationship you share. Bring them in, get
them going and eventually the team is going to feed off it. When
your fans become a part of the product, you have created a magical
Veit is credited with generating a record increase in ticket
sales revenue during his time with the Mutiny. It was due mostly to
enhancements he made to the in-stadium experience -- laser shows and
rock music, for example. Although the majority of people in the
Tampa Bay community appreciated Veit's additions (as is evident by
the surging ticket sales), the soccer traditionalists weren’t so
fast to send him a thank you card. A number of old-school soccer
fans felt Veit was making unnecessary alterations to their game,
even though he never changed a single aspect of the on-field
product. Now that he's part of the XFL, an organization that Vince
McMahon proudly describes as the "Xtra fun league," Veit
will have an unprecedented opportunity to make the Orlando
experience much more of an event than just a game.
"This is such a great opportunity because the XFL is brand
new," he said. "There’s no one to say ‘Hey, you can’t
do this because we’ve been doing that for 50 years.’ Other than
the rules of our football product, we can try all new things and be
innovative with our fans."
Although it's comforting to know that Tom will apply everything
he learned during his previous experiences to ensure that Orlando
fans truly enjoy everything that comes with attending XFL games,
there is one more thing that we all want to see him bring from MLS -
Valderrama! The wild-haired superstar and international icon seems
to be custom made for a kicking spot on an XFL roster. But don't get
excited yet, Veit sees a problem.
"I think MLS has him under contract for a few years - but
then who knows!" he said. "I think we’d have a problem
fitting his hair into a regular helmet; we’d have to make him a
special one. But I guess we could sell them then."
The Valderrama hair-helmet. It’ll be bigger than Tickle Me