The Birmingham Barracudas

Posted: September 18, 2016

The Birmingham Barracudas were a short-lived franchise that played in the Canadian Football League during the 1995 season. The Barracudas played their home games at the Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

How did the Birmingham Barracudas Start up?

In the early and mid-1990s, the CFL was in the middle of a spirited bid to expand into the United States, hoping to capitalize on NFL’s limited reach in some of the major metropolises. The city of Birmingham was one of recipients of CFL expansion franchises. Art Williams, an insurance investor and former high school coach would be the custodian of the Birmingham franchise. Williams asked for suggestions for the name of his new team, specifically looking for a name that would “scare” the opposition. He picked Barracudas, explaining to reporters that, “It’s an animal that’s vicious and mean.” Jack Pardee, an experienced college and NFL coach, was picked as the team’s first head coach and went on a mission to put together a roster, ready for the 1995 season.

The Barracudas in Competition

The Barracudas were placed in the Southern Division along with four other American teams; the Baltimore Stallions, the San Antonio Texans, the Shreveport Pirates and the Memphis Mad Dogs. Their first competitive game was a 38-10 road win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 4, 1995. They then lost 31-13 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, before exerting revenge on the Tiger-Cats with a 51-28 win during their first home game a week later. They had a season of mixed success and ended up finishing with a 10-8 record for third place in the division. Star quarterback Matt Dunigan, signed at the beginning of the season as a free agent had one of the most outstanding seasons in CFL history. Despite sitting out two games of the season with injury, he managed 4,911 and 34 touchdown passes. The Barracudas faced the San Antonio Texans in the division semifinals but were beaten 52-9.

Birmingham Barracudas Notable Moments

Towards the end of the regular season, the Barracudas were on a relatively strong run, with Matt Durigan particularly impressing. During the final home game of the season, Dunigan injured his shoulder and left the game. Dunigan also sat out the season finale against the Texans and the team lost 48-42. In the playoffs, they met the Texans again but any chances of revenge were tempered by the continued absence of Dunigan. The Barracudas were thrashed 52-9, their worst defeat of the season.

Birmingham Barracuda Notable Players

Matt Dunigan QB

Kelvin Simmons QB

Fred Childress OG

Jason Phillips SG

Andre Strode DB

Marcus Grant WR

Anthony Drawhorn DB

What Happened to the Birmingham Barracudas?

Initially, the team was well supported, drawing more than 30,000 spectators during the first three home games. However, once the NFL and college football seasons began, the numbers dwindled drastically, underlining the CFL’s inferiority to local leagues, a fact that many beleaguered American teams had to contend with. Despite being one of the more successful US teams on the field, the Barracudas continued drawing poorly, with less than 10,000 fans consistently showing up for games. American owners, who were experiencing heavy losses felt that the CFL had a disconnect with American football culture, and tried to push the league to make changes that would improve American interest in the Canadian version of the game. American owners, who were experiencing heavy losses felt that the CFL had a disconnect with American football culture, and tried to push the league to make changes that would improve American interest in the Canadian version of the game.

Some of the proposals included changing the league’s name to reflect the U.S, presence more, reducing the size Canadian football field closer to American football size, and reducing the team size from 12 to 11 like in American football. On his part, Williams wanted the season moved from summer to spring to remove the clash with the more popular American leagues, as well the awkward scheduling of games. When the league declined to consider these proposals, Williams who claimed to have lost more than $5 million decided to sell the franchise. The new owners, a group called Ark-La-Tex Football Association wanted to relocate the Barracudas to Shreveport to replace the Pirates who had just folded. Although Shreveport was a much smaller market than Birmingham, it was considered a better market going by the fact that the Pirates had enjoyed a steady support base even with the NFL and college football in progress. The CFL however declined the move and ordered the shutdown of all American franchises.

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