Tom Veit is ready to run
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 from us."

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 fans.

"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 sports experience."

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 Elmo.

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