Alabama Vulcans

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Alabama Vulcans
Alabama Vulcans logo.png
Sport Football
League American Football Association
Active 1979
Home field Legion Field
Record 13-6
Coach Harry Lander
Web site N/A

The Alabama Vulcans were a professional football team which were a part of the American Football Association for a single season in 1979. They were owned by Harry Lander, who also served as the team's head coach. Their home stadium was Legion Field in Birmingham.

History

The AFA began playing in 1977 as a Texas semi-pro football league. When it expanded to cover the southeast region in 1978 Birmingham Vulcans owner Pee Wee Burgess was working to establish an NFL franchise in Birmingham and declined to pursue another minor-league team. When the AFA expanded again in 1979, Harry Lander, the league's president announced that he had sold his own Shreveport franchise and bought the rights for a Birmingham franchise. Lander had owned and coached the San Antonio team to a championship in the league's first year before doing the same at Shreveport. He planned for Birmingham to become the flagship team in the young league.

The season got off to a good start, with no touchdowns scored against the Vulcans until game five. The team went on to win 13 of its 19 games and cruised into the playoffs. The Vulcans lost in the first round to the eventual champions, the Florida Firebirds, at their home field.

The year was marked by a number of off the field struggles. Players, who earned a percentage of the gate, rarely made more than a few thousand dollars for a 19 game season. Lander had secured assistance from WENN-AM manager Kirkwood Balton in promoting the team and arranging for housing at the A. G. Gaston Motel, but only black players lived their while their white teammates had apartments in Hoover paid for by Lander. Disputes over this and the handling of paychecks caused black players and linebackers coach O'Neal Dozier to threaten a walkout in June.

Attendance at games dwindled as the season wore on, with an average of just over 5,000 fans per game. In August, Lander announced that he had signed former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam. Gilliam had been playing for the Baltimore Eagles of the Mid-Atlantic Conference, and that team claimed he was still under contract and he would seek a court injunction to prevent him from suiting up for Birmingham. Gilliam, who never actually had signed a contract with Lander, returned to Baltimore and was badly beaten outside a nightclub soon afterwards.

The Vulcans weren't the only team having trouble. The Arkansas Champs had to "borrow" six Vulcan players and a set of uniforms to be able to field a squad for their August 11 game. The league took over management of that team two weeks later.

In September four offensive linemen left the team in a pay dispute. Lander claimed to have fired them. WAPI-AM stopped broadcasting games, saying it was owed $3,000 for its August broadcasts. The team's cheerleaders complained about having their funds diverted to team operations. By the end of the month, the team's check for use of Legion Field had bounced and the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board locked them out.

News reports said Lander would seek additional investors to buy half of his interest in the team. In February 1980 he said that he had sold the entire team to a Birmingham group and that all debts would be paid off. Lander moved on to coach a new franchise in West Virginia. The Vulcans did not, in fact, return for the 1980 season.

1979 Results (13-6, lost in 1st round of AFA playoffs)

  • May 19: Won 28-0 vs Carolina Chargers
  • May 27: Won 18-0 at Oklahoma Mustangs
  • June 2: Won 14-3 at Mississippi Stars
  • June 9: Won 48-0 vs Florida Firebirds
  • June 16: Won 39-14 vs Arkansas Champs
  • June 23: Lost 28-14 at Kentucky Trackers
  • June 30: Won 20-14 vs Mississippi Stars
  • July 4: Won 27-0 vs Kentucky Trackers
  • July 7: Won 20-17 vs Shreveport Steamers
  • July 14: Won 17-14 at Florida Firebirds
  • July 21: Won 13-7 at Shreveport Steamers
  • July 29: Lost 21-12 at San Antonio Charros
  • August 4: Won 17-0 vs Mississippi Stars
  • August 11: Won 38-0 vs Arkansas Champs
  • August 18: Lost 27-26 at Florida Firebirds
  • August 25: Lost 17-10 vs San Antonio Charros
  • September 1: Won 41-6 vs Kentucky Trackers
  • September 8: Lost 52-14 at Carolina Chargers
  • September 15: Lost first round of playoffs 28-21 at the AFA champion-Florida Firebirds
Preceded by:
Birmingham Vulcans
Pro Football in Birmingham
1979
Succeeded by:
Alabama Magic

Players

References