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The Barracudas

The Barracudas    

 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.

 Franchise History

 In the Beginning

Art Williams, a business man from Georgia, 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. 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. After that, attendance did not exceed 10,000 fans a game.

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

Attendance at Legion Field was very good at first. The Birmingham crowds were some of the largest in the league. Once the college football season started, the numbers started to decline even though the 'Cudas played on Sundays, not directly competing against Alabama or Auburn.

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. It was intended for the team to play in Shreveport (where a more consistent and numerous fan base had established itself, but whose team, the Pirates, had folded under the mismanagement of infamous CFL owner Bernard Glieberman). The new Shreveport team never played and every American team folded, except the Baltimore Stallions. They relocated to Montreal to become the new Alouettes.