||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (March 2013)|
|Based in||Birmingham, Alabama, United States|
|Home field||Legion Field|
|League||Canadian Football League|
|Colours||Black, teal, blue, burnt orange, and white
|Head coach||Jack Pardee|
The Birmingham Barracudas were a Canadian football team that played the 1995 season in the Canadian Football League. The Barracudas were part of a failed attempt to expand the CFL into the United States.
In the beginning
Insurance tycoon and motivational speaker Art Williams was awarded a CFL expansion franchise in Birmingham. He wanted a nickname for the team that would "scare the spit out of people," and chose Barracudas.
The Barracudas hired an experienced head coach in Jack Pardee, who had coached at the college level with the University of Houston and at the professional level with the WFL, USFL, and NFL. (Pardee is perhaps better known as the only six-man football player to have ever made it to the professional leagues; his knowledge of that wide-open game proved to serve him well in the similarly wide-open CFL.) The Barracudas were also led by veteran CFL quarterback Matt Dunigan, who had his greatest season while in Birmingham.
During the season
Birmingham competed in the Southern Division along with the San Antonio Texans, Baltimore Stallions, Memphis Mad Dogs, and Shreveport Pirates. After losing their only two pre-season games, they played their first game July 4, 1995, versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Winnipeg. They won 38–10, and would lose to the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton 31–13. They would get their revenge a week later at home by beating the Cats 51–28 in front of 31,000 fans.
The biggest home game of the season came against the Baltimore Stallions. It also proved to be the biggest disappointment, as the Barracudas lost 36–8.
Attendance at Legion Field was very good at first. The Birmingham crowds were some of the largest in the league. However, the CFL traditionally plays on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Realizing that this would cause serious attendance problems once high school and college football season started, Williams persuaded the league to let the 'Cudas play their September and October home games on Sundays so as not to compete directly against high school teams on Fridays and Alabama or Auburn on Saturdays. Despite this, attendance still fell through the floor as most Birmingham-area fans stayed home to watch NFL games. Their last four home games did not attract more than 9,000 people, and looked even smaller than that since Legion Field seated over 83,000 people at the time. The Memphis Mad Dogs were plagued by similar attendance problems, and the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League had been hamstrung by a similar situation 20 years earlier.
In the team's final home game, against the Edmonton Eskimos, Matt Dunigan left the game due to a shoulder injury, and Birmingham was forced to turn to back-up quarterback Jimmy Klinger. Despite the loss, the Barracudas still had a chance to claim home-field advantage in the playoffs. However, they lost a shootout of a season finale in San Antonio, finishing third in the Southern Division. They returned to San Antonio the following week for the Southern Division Semi-Final, but were whipped by the Texans 52–9, ending their first and only playoff run.
After the season
Owner Art Williams was quoted that he was probably losing between 4 to 6 million dollars on the team – however, outside sources quoted the losses at around 10 million dollars. He also began criticizing the Canadian Football League, and its unique concept. Along with other U.S. owners, Williams wanted several changes made:
- Reducing the size of a CFL field to American football standards.
- Allowing only 11 players on each side of the ball, rather than 12.
- Changing the name of the league to show more of a U.S. presence.
Wiliams sold the team to a group of investors called Ark-La-Tex Football Association from Louisiana, who intended to move the team to Shreveport as a replacement for the Shreveport Pirates, who had collapsed under the mismanagement of infamous CFL owner Bernard Glieberman. Although Shreveport was far smaller than Birmingham, the Pirates had managed to attract a fairly consistent and numerous fan base. However, the CFL instead opted to shutter the team along with the Mad Dogs and Posse. Soon afterward, the Baltimore Stallions moved to Montreal to become the new Alouettes, and the San Antonio Texans folded as well, ending the CFL's American experiment.
Players and builders of note
- CFL USA all-time records and statistics
- Comparison of Canadian and American football
- 1995 CFL season
- Berger, Ken (July 2, 1995). "Birmingham tries pro football again with Barracudas". TimesDaily. Associated Press. p. 6C. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
- Birmingham Barracudas at BhamWiki.com
- Birmingham Barracudas at BirminghamProSports.com
- Birmingham Barracudas team profile