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1995 Birmingham Barracudas

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Birmingham BarracudasCanadian Football League (1995)

Born: January 11, 1995 – CFL expansion franchise
Folded: February 1996

Stadium: Legion Field

Team Colors:

Owner: Art Williams

Grey Cup Championships: None

 

The Birmingham Barracudas were the final American expansion team awarded during the Canadian Football League’s failed incursion into the United States during the mid-1990’s. The CFL arrived in America in 1993 with a single club in Sacramento, California. Expansion teams in Baltimore, Las Vegas and Shreveport, Louisiana followed a year later. For 1995, Sacramento moved to San Antonio, Las Vegas folded, and Birmingham and Memphis became the last American cities to join the CFL. Life insurance mogul Art Williams purchased the Birmingham expansion rights in January 1995. Oddly, he chose the nickname “Barracudas” for his landlocked Alabama franchise.

The Barracudas tabbed former Houston Oilers head coach Jack Pardee to run the team. Pardee was a pioneer of the Run and Shoot offense during his time with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL and later with the University of Houston and the Oilers. Two-time All-CFL quarterback Matt Dunigan signed as a free agent and led the ‘Cudas high-scoring offense.

The Barracudas debuted at 75,000-seat Legion Field on July 15, 1995 with a 51-28 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The opening day crowd of 31,185 marked a strong debut by CFL standards. Crowds stayed strong for the next two Saturday nights as well. 25,321 turned out for a 24-14 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on July 22nd and 30,729 for a 36-8 loss to the Baltimore Stallions on July 29th.

The Barracudas were high-scoring and competitive. But attendance crashed in September and October once high school football and the  Auburn and University of Alabama college schedules got under way. Barracudas executives anticipated the problem. The CFL traditionally played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Williams got an exception for the Barracudas. Birmingham would play home games at Legion Field on Saturday evenings in July and August, but would be allowed to play on Sundays once college and high school football got under way after Labor Day. It didn’t matter. On Sunday October 1, 1995 an announced crowd of just 6,317 showed up for a home win against the Shreveport Pirates. The following Sunday was no better – 6,859 for a divisional contest against the San San Antonio Texans. For all intents and purposes, the Barracudas were done in Birmingham.

The Barracudas made the Grey Cup playoffs with a 10-8 record. But Matt Dunigan broke the index finger on this throwing hand in the season’s penultimate game. He would miss the Barracudas’ November 5, 1995 playoff game against the San Antonio Texans. Kelvin Simmons, with one pro start to his name, couldn’t move the offense. The Texans blew out the Barracudas 52-9 in the Alamodome. It was last game the team would ever play.

In January 1996 Art Williams reached an agreement in principle to unloaded his CFL membership to a group from Louisiana for a reported $750,000. The group hoped to move the Barracudas to Shreveport to replace that city’s own outgoing CFL team, the Shreveport Pirates. But the Louisiana group was unable to complete the deal by the CFL’s January 31, 1996 deadline. CFL owners to disband what remained of the CFL’s American franchises in February 1996.

Art Williams purchased the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning in 1998. He lost a reported $20 million on the team in 9 months before selling it at a further loss, thus bringing his pro sports adventures to an end.

Barracudas quarterback Matt Dunigan earned election to the Canadian Football Hall-of-Fame in 1996.

 

Birmingham Barracudas Shop


End Zones & Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL by Ed Willes

 

Birmingham Barracudas Memorabilia

 

Links

Canadian Football League Media Guides

Canadian Football League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 23rd, 2017 at 5:00 pm

1994 Las Vegas Posse

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Tamarick Vanover Las Vegas PosseCanadian Football League (1994)

Born: July 26, 1993 – CFL expansion franchise.
Folded: April 1995

Stadium: Sam Boyd Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: Nick Mileti, Glenn Golenberg, Marshall Geller, et al.

Grey Cup Championships: None

 

Following the demise of the NFL-funded World League of American Football (WLAF) in September 1992, the cash-strapped Canadian Football League set its sights on an infusion of expansion fees from south of the border.  The venerable CFL held steady with the same eight-city Canadian membership from 1954 until 1987, when Montreal dropped from the league.  The remaining seven cities soldiered on into the 1990’s,

Two refugee franchises from the defunct, the Sacramento Surge and the San Antonio Riders, announced their entry into the

Canadian football was a tough sell in the States.  Canadian rules are substantially different, what with 12 v. 12 action, a 110-yard field, unlimited offensive backfield motion before the snap, and 3-down offensive possessions. Most of the cities involved in the CFL’s American adventure had also hosted USFL or WLAF in the recent past.

 

Las Vegas Posse Shop

End Zones & Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL by Ed Willes

 

Las Vegas Posse Programs

 

Posse Video

The Posse visit the Toronto Argonauts on July 29, 1994.

 

Links

Giddyap, Posse“, Jack McCallum & Kelli Anderson, Sports Illustrated, September 5, 1994

Canadian Football League Media Guides

Canadian Football League Programs

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1995 Memphis Mad Dogs

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Canadian Football League (1995)

Born: 1994 – CFL expansion franchise.
Folded: November 30, 1995.

Stadium: The Liberty Bowl

Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Smith

Grey Cup Championships: None

 

The Memphis Mad Dogs were a one-year wonder in the Canadian Football League (yes, Canadian) and part of the CFL’s epic failure to expand into the United States between 1993 and 1995.  The Mad Dogs arrived just in time for the final season of the CFL’s three-year American misadventure in the fall of 1995.

Federal Express founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith (pictured at right on the team’s 1995 media guide) led the Mad Dogs ownership group. He acquired the franchise for a reported $3 million expansion fee in December 1994.  The CFL franchise was something of a consolation prize for Smith and the City of Memphis.  Smith was part of a group of investors, led by cotton king and former Memphis Showboats owner Billy Dunavant, that tried to land an NFL expansion franchise for Memphis in 1993.  The proposed NFL team would have been named the Memphis Hound Dogs, due to the participation of the Elvis Presley Estate in the investor group.  But Dunavant & Co. lost out to Charlotte and Jacksonville in the NFL sweepstakes. When Smith brought the CFL to town a little more than a year later, it felt like sloppy seconds to many area football fans.

Memphis did have an intriguing pro football track record.  The Memphis Southmen of the mid-1970’s World Football League drew strong crowds at the Liberty Bowl.  That club made national headlines by luring a trio of stars – Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield – away from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 1975.  The mid-1980’s saw the arrival of Dunavant’s Showboats, a popular franchise in the United States Football League.  The Showboats launched the Hall-of-Fame pro career of University of Tennessee defensive end Reggie White.  During the USFL’s final season in the spring of 1985, the Showboats averaged more than 30,000 fans per game.  But the USFL folded in 1986 after an aborted move to the fall.  As with the WFL a decade earlier, Memphis lost a strong football franchise when its league collapsed around it.

The Mad Dogs re-assembled parts of the USFL brain trust to try and re-capture the Showboats’ buzz.  Charismatic former Showboats Head Coach Pepper Rodgers – equal parts promoter and coach – returned as Head Coach and minority partner of the Mad Dogs.  Ex-Showboats front office executives Steve Ehrhart and Rudi Schiffer returned in key positions.  The team even signed 35-year old quarterback Mike Kelley, the Showboats back-up quarterback in 1984-85.  Kelley hadn’t played a down of football in eight years, since suiting up as an NFL replacement player during the 1987 player strike.

The Mad Dogs featured a formidable defense. Two-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player Greg Battle headed the linebacking corps. Perennial CFL All-Stars Tim Cofield (DE) and Rodney Harding (DT) anchored the line.  The offense ranked near the bottom of the league, but featured a couple of notable names in starting quarterback Damon Allen and 34-year old running back Gary Anderson. Anderson was a former 1,000-yard rusher in both the USFL and the NFL.  Allen had a mediocre season for the Mad Dogs, passing for only 11 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.  But he would go to play 23 seasons in the CFL, retiring in 2007 as the all-time leading passer by yardage in professional football history (at the time) with 72,381 passing yards.

The Mad Dogs greatest legacy is likely the discovery of wide receiver Joe Horn, an unheralded community college player who previously kicked around a few other CFL training camps without latching on.  Horn was a 1,000-yard receiver for the Mad Dogs in 1995, and attracted the attention of NFL scouts.  The Kansas City Chiefs drafted him in the 5th round in 1996.  Horn went onto a 12-season NFL career, earning four Pro Bowl appearances with the New Orleans Saints between 2000 and 2004.

The Mad Dogs debuted at the Liberty Bowl on July 7, 1995, losing their second game of the season 31-13 to the British Columbia Lions.  A disappointing crowd of 14,278 turned out for the inaugural game in the 62,000-seat bowl.  A few late summer games cracked the 20,000 barrier. But once college football started up in September, attendance plummeted down to around 10,000 per game.

The Mad Dogs played their final game on October 26, 1995, a 25-13 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos before an announced crowd of 12,078 at the Liberty Bowl.  A little over a month later, Fred Smith threw in the towel and folded the club. Published accounts at the time pegged his losses at anywhere from $3 million to $6 million.  The four other American CFL franchises soon followed suit, bringing an end to the CFL southern adventure after three seasons.

 

Memphis Mad Dogs Shop

End Zones & Border Wars: The Era of American Expansion in the CFL by Ed Willes

 

Memphis Mad Dogs Memorabilia

 

Mad Dogs Video

 

 

Links

Canadian Football League Media Guides

Canadian Football League Programs

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Written by AC

June 28th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

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