The Memphis Mad Dogs

Graeme
By
Posted: October 2, 2016


The Memphis Mad Dogs were a team that played in the Canadian Football league during the 1995 season. The team was based at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and was owned by FedEx founder Fred Smith among others. The team’s home uniform was based on a white and green theme, with gold prints.

How did the Memphis Mad Dogs Start?

The Mad Dogs were one of several American teams that joined the CFL during the said league’s misadventure into the US during the mid-1990s. The ownership group led by Fred Smith paid a $3 million expansion fee for the franchise. Smith had been part of a group that had tried to bring an NFL team to the city of Memphis in 1993. The plans for the new team, which was to be named Memphis Hound Dogs fell through however when the expansion franchise went to Charlotte instead. The city had a strong footballing culture but had been without a football franchise since 1986 when the USFL and local representative Memphis Showboats collapsed. The Mad Dogs revived many things Showboats including bringing the former head coach of the defunct team Pepper Rodgers in the hope of recapturing the Showboats immense local following. The plans for the new team, which was to be named Memphis Hound Dogs fell through however when the expansion franchise went to Charlotte instead. The city had a strong footballing culture but had been without a football franchise since 1986 when the USFL and local representative Memphis Showboats collapsed. The Mad Dogs revived many things Showboats including bringing the former head coach of the defunct team Pepper Rodgers in the hope of recapturing the Showboats immense local following. Other ex-Showboat hires included front office executives Rudi Schiffer and Steve Ehrhart, and quarterback Mike Kelley. They assembled an impressive roster with various offensive and defensive players who had impressed for other teams.

The Memphis Mad Dogs in Competition

The Mad Dogs played their first competitive fixture on June 29, 1995 against the Calgary Stampeders, suffering a 24-18 loss. Their home debut came a week later against the BC Lions which also ended in a loss. They won their next three fixtures giving hope of a sustained assault for the Grey Cup. However their momentum fizzled out and they went back to mixed results, eventually finishing the season outside the playoff spots in fourth place with a 9-9-0 record.

Memphis Mad Dogs Notable Moments

When the Mad Dogs were setting up, they signed a rather formidable team, perhaps most notably running back Gary Anderson. Anderson had made 1000 season rushing yards in both the NFL and USFL. After a mediocre season with the Mad Dogs, he would go on to play 23 seasons in the CFL, racking up 72,381 passing yards which was the all-time CFL record at the time he retired in 2007.

Memphis Mad Dogs Notable Players

Damon Allen QB

Greg Battle DE

Joe Horn WR

Gary Anderson RB

Rodney Harding DT

Tim Cofield DE

What happened to the Memphis Mad Dogs?

During the first two months of the season, Memphis was fairly well supported, with crowds ranging between 10,000 and 20,000, well in the league average zone. However when college football began in September, attendance plummeted below 10,000. Pepper Rodgers was one of the league owners who expressed displeasure at the CFL’s unwillingness to make concessions in game rules and scheduling for the sake of American teams. When the Barracudas folded, Smith convinced the league to allow his team to play on Sundays, to avoid scheduling clashes with college football. This strategy however did not work as the numbers remained down. Smith placed the blame on media hostility and community indifference to the Canadian version of the game, and started considering an exit plan. When the Barracudas folded, Smith convinced the league to allow his team to play on Sundays, to avoid scheduling clashes with college football. This strategy however did not work as the numbers remained down. Smith placed the blame on media hostility and community indifference to the Canadian version of the game, and started considering an exit plan. With losses mounting and the Houston Oilers’ rumored arrival expected to put further pressure on the team’s bottom line, Smith threw in the towel and folded the franchise amid a mass extinction of CFL franchises in the US. The transportation mogul had reportedly lost between $3 million and $6 million in the ten months that the Mad Dogs were in operation. When the Oilers arrived on a temporary stay in their migration to Nashville, they faced the same problems that the Mad Dogs had faced in terms of attendance.

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