|League||Canadian Football League|
|Home field||Legion Field|
The Birmingham Barracudas were Birmingham's franchise in the Canadian Football League, in an attempt to establish American teams in the all-Canadian league. Playing their lone season at Legion Field under head coach Jack Pardee and the ownership of Art Williams, the team's record was 10-9-0 with an average of 30.4 points per game scored and 28.8 points per game allowed. The Barracudas nine home games were played before an average crowd of 16,843.
The prospect of Birmingham landing a CFL team dates as far back as July 1988 when then CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell, hinted that the league was looking to expand into the United States and Birmingham was one of the potential locations for a franchise. Although the city was receptive to landing an expansion team, some officials were skeptical about the likelihood of American fans accepting the different Canadian rules.
By October 1994, the likelihood of the CFL coming to Birmingham seemed to be more of a reality than fantasy. The league tried, but ultimately failed to move the November 4 match-up between the Las Vegas Posse and Edmonton Eskimos to Legion Field. This was to be done as a "test site" for the league as a result of poor attendance in Vegas, and to examine the interest in the league in the city.
Prior to Birmingham being awarded an expansion franchise, a group led by former Alabama quarterback Kenny Stabler and the singer Jimmy Buffet attempted to relocate the Las Vegas franchise to Birmingham. This would not come to fruition however, as Birmingham was awarded an expansion franchise to another ownership group.
Birmingham was announced as a CFL expansion franchise at a press conference on January 11, 1995. Owned by Art Williams, its president was announced as Larry Lemak and the general manager would be Roy Shivers. Williams chose Birmingham over both San Antonio and Orlando as locations for the franchise. On January 28, the CFL Board of Governors officially approved Birmingham's application for an expansion team unanimously.
On March 13, it was announced that the teams name would be the Barracudas. Also simply called the 'Cudas, the name was chosen from list of more than 400 different nicknames. Other seriously considered names included Cougars, Bearcats, Bandits, Steel and Magicians. The team colors were also announced at the press conference: black, white, teal and blue.
Although the team did see moderate success on the field by making the playoffs, dwindling attendance and poor marketing resulted in ownership losing between $10-12 million for the season. Team officials cited the low attendance a result of having to compete with both college football and the NFL. By the league meetings in late November, the lame-duck Birmingham franchise was not present.
By December, groups from Miami, Montreal and Portland were seeking to purchase the franchise for relocation. An additional pair of groups was looking to keep the team in Birmingham to compete in the 1996 season. However, by early 1996, a group from Shreveport would purchase the team as part of the Ark-La-Tex Football Association, officially ending the tenure of the CFL within the Magic City.
1995 record (10-9-0)
- June 16: Lost 31-28 at Shreveport Pirates. On a steamy June afternoon, 17 penalties cost the visiting 'Cudas victory in their first exhibition. Reggie Slack would start at quarterback and complete 10 of 18 passes for 108 with a pair of touchdowns. Jimmy Klingler would relieve Slack, and was 8 of 14 for 172 yards including a 32 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Grant. However a lost fumble and interception would prove costly in the loss in combination with 17 penalties would cost the 'Cudas victory. B'ham News - 6/18/1995
- June 24: Lost 37-0 vs. Baltimore Stallions (at Miami). In a charity game played before 13,000 in Miami's Orange Bowl Stadium, the 'Cudas were shutout by 1994 Grey Cup runner-up 37-0. Birmingham's only scoring opportunity of the afternoon came at the end of the second when Franco Grilla missed a 46 yard field goal attempt. B'ham News - 6/25/1995
Regular season (10-8-0)
- July 4: Won 38-10 at Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In their first regular season game, the 'Cudas would dominate Winnipeg in a 38-10 victory. The scoring would begin in the first with Andre Strode returning an interception 31 yards back for a score. Later in the first, Jimmy Klingler would hit for a 96 yard touchdown score Jason Phillips. After another Birmingham score in the second on a 3 yard Willie McClendon run, Junior Thurman would return another interception for a touchdown in giving the visitors a 28-0 halftime lead. For the game, Birmingham would gain 354 yards on offense with a stingy defense limiting the Bombers to only 242 yards and six turnovers. B'ham News - 7/5/1995
- July 8: Lost 31-10 at Hamilton Tiger-Cats. After an impressive opening victory, the visiting 'Cudas looked like an expansion team in a 31-10 defeat at Hamilton. After a trio of Tiger-Cat turnovers resulting in only a 49 yard Franco Grilla field goal, Birmingham would find the end zone for the only time of the day on an 86 yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Klingler to Marcus Grant. Grant would have a memorable afternoon in an otherwise forgettable game in gaining 182 yards on seven catches. B'ham News - 7/9/1995
- July 15: Won 51-28 vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In their home opener, the 'Cudas dominated Hamilton in taking a 51-28 victory in front if a season high 31,185 fans in Legion Field. In the first, Matt Dunigan would hit Delius Morris for a one yard touchdown pass and would run one in from one yard out giving the home team a 14-3 victory after one. In the second, Dunigan would hit Marcus Grant for a pair of touchdowns of 39 and 72 yards. In the third, Fernando Thomas would return an interception 41 yards for a score to ice the contest for the 'Cudas. B'ham News - 7/16/1995
- July 22: Won 24-14 vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders. After an emotional opening win at home, the Cudas looked flat in front of 25,321 home fans in a 24-14 win against winless Saskatchewan. After being down 10-3 in the first, Matt Dunigan hit Jason Phillips for a six yard touchdown late in the first. Birmingham would then take a 17-13 halftime lead after Dunigan hit Phillips for a 23 yard touchdown as the first half concluded. B'ham News - 7/23/1995
- July 29: Lost 36-8 vs. Baltimore Stallions.On a rainy July evening, the Cudas would be blown-out by Baltimore 36-8 before 30,729 fans at Legion Field. Birmingham's lone score came in late in the second quarter on a 28 yard touchdown pass to Delius Morris from Matt Dunigan. The Stallions' stifling defense only allowed the home team 150 total yards of offense for the night. B'ham News - 7/30/1995
- August 3: Lost 30-23 at British Columbia Lions. The visiting Cudas made the trip to Vancouver and would take the defending Grey Cup champions into overtime before faltering 30-23. On the final play of the first quarter, Matt Dunigan would hit Marcus Grant for a 26 yard touchdown score. The offense would then remain quiet until a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth would tie the game. Dunigan would again hit Grant for a 20 yard touchdown score, before Dunigan would run in the game tying score from one yard out with :14 remaining in regulation. B'ham News - 8/4/1995
- August 12: Won 50-24 vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After a heartbreaking defeat a week earlier, the Cudas bounced back with a resounding 50-24 victory against visiting Winnipeg before 17,328 fans. Matt Dunigan starred in the game by completing 22 of 41 passes for 300 yards with touchdown strikes to Mac Cody, Jason Phillips, Marcus Grant and Keith Woodside. B'ham News - 8/13/1995
- August 18: Won 30-28 at Calgary Stampeders. Matt Dunigan would face Doug Flutie in the battle of elite CFL quarterbacks as Birmingham upset previously-undefeated Calgary. Dunigan shone, completing 37 of 58 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns. He hit Eddie Britton for a 12 yard touchdown with only :08 seconds remaining in the contest to seal the upset. The loss represented the end of Calgary's CFL record 27-game home winning streak and their first loss to a U.S. team in 13 previous contests. B'ham News - 8/20/1995
- August 26: Lost 37-14 vs. Calgary Stampeders. In a rematch of the previous week, Jeff Garcia would dominate the 'Cudas secondary all afternoon in a 37-14 Birmingham loss before 19,692 fans at Legion Field. The only offensive scoring for the home team came on four Luis Zendejas field goals. B'ham News - 8/27/1995
- September 1: Won 56-46 at Ottawa Rough Riders. Birmingham would come from behind to defeat the Rough Riders in the Canadian capitol. Keith Woodside would star for the 'Cudas in having the franchises first 100 yard rushing game. He would rush for 110 yards, including a 62 yard touchdown run in the fourth, in addition to having another 83 yards receiving and another touchdown. B'ham News - 9/2/1995
- September 9: Lost 28-20 at Baltimore Stallions. Leading 20-18 in the fourth, late Baltimore scores would cost the 'Cudas victory on the road by a final score of 28-20. Matt Dunigan completed 21 of 47 passes for 384 yards with a single touchdown to Jason Phillips in the third. Luis Zendejas would provide the remainder of the scoring by converting four field goals. B'ham News - 9/10/1995
- September 17: Won 40-9 vs. Ottawa Rough Riders. Before a mere 5,289 fans at Legion Field, the 'Cudas would dominate Ottawa in a 40-9 victory. Matt Dunigan completed 20 of 37 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns to Eddie Britton, Schredick Austin and Marcus Grant. On defense both Anthony Drawhorn (who had three interceptions) and Shonte Peoples (who sacked Andre Ware three times) were dominant. Luis Zendejas was also successful in converting a career best six field goals in the victory. B'ham News - 9/18/1995
- September 24: Lost 28-19 at Memphis Mad Dogs. Turnovers proved too costly as three interceptions resulted in a 28-19 defeat in Memphis' Liberty Bowl. The 'Cudas lone touchdown came in the fourth on an 18 yard Dunigan pass to Delius Morris. For the game, Birmingham could only muster 296 yards of total offense. B'ham News - 9/25/1995
- October 1: Won 34-20 vs. Shreveport Pirates. Matt Dunigan was dominant in this 34-20 victory over divisional rival Shreveport before 6,314 at Legion Field. Dunigan completed 32 of 46 attempts for 414 yards and four touchdowns to Keith Woodside, Marcus Grant, Eddie Britton and Jason Phillips. B'ham News - 10/2/1995
- October 8: Won 38-28 vs. San Antonio Texans. In an all around victory for the home team, Birmingham defeated the Texans before 6,859 fans at Legion Field. Matt Dunigan passed for 317 yards with a pair of touchdowns to Ted Long and Schredrick Austin. He would also score on a 17 yard run in the fourth. In the first, Ted Long would block a punt that was recovered in the end zone by Sam Peoples for a score. In the third, Peoples would return a fumble for another touchdown to ice the game. B'ham News - 10/9/1995
- October 13: Won 29-28 at Shreveport Pirates. Luis Zendejas would hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired to secure a 29-28 win at Shreveport's Independence Stadium. Matt Dunigan passed for 462 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In the victory, Marcus Grant, Keith Woodside and Jason Phillips each had 100 yard receiving days. B'ham News - 10/14/1995
- October 19: Lost 45-18 vs. Edmonton Eskimos. In what would turn out to be the final CFL game ever played in Alabama, the 'Cudas would falter to the visiting Eskimos before 8,910 fans at Legion Field. The major blow came in the second quarter when quarterback Matt Dunigan broke his right index finger on an Edmonton helmet effectively ending his season. In Dunigan's absence, Jimmy Klingler threw four interceptions.B'ham News - 10/20/1995
- October 29: Lost 48-42 at San Antonio Texans. Clinching the final playoff spot earlier in the week as a result of a Memphis loss, the 'Cudas would lose in a shootout 48-42 in the Alamodome. Kelvin Simmons would start at quarterback for Birmingham and star with 136 yards and three touchdowns rushing on 17 carries in addition to completing 21 of 33 passes for 251 yards and two more touchdowns. B'ham News - 10/30/1995
- November 5: Lost 52-9 at San Antonio Texans. In their lone playoff game, the visitors from Birmingham were dominated in a 52-9 loss in the Alamodome. Kelvin Simmons would complete 21 of 34 passes for 214 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. All of Birmingham's points came from Luis Zendejas who was successful in hitting a trio of field goals. B'ham News - 11/6/1995
- Birmingham head coach Jack Pardee is the only person to have served as head coach for franchises in the NFL, CFL, USFL, and WFL as well as for a NCAA Division I-A team.
- Matt Coulter served as the voice of the Barracudas with Thom Gossom serving as analyst.
- WHMA-FM out of Anniston served as the teams flagship radio station.
- The most notable player to try out for the team that was later cut was Elbert "Ickey" Woods, who was famous as the Cincinnati Bengals back who created the "Ickey Shuffle" as a touchdown celebration.
- The 1995-96 Birmingham Bulls were in attendance for the October 1 contest against Shreveport.
- The 31,185 fans at Legion Field for the home opener were a league high for a single game for the 1995 season.
- The 5,289 fans attending the September 17 contest against Ottawa was the lowest attendance ever recorded for a professional game at Legion Field.
- Rumored to serve as a potential tenant of the never built Alabaster domed stadium proposed in 1995.
- Quarterback Matt Dunigan had career highs in nearly every statistical category in spite of missing the final game with 643 attempts, 364 completions and 4,910 yards for the season. He also had 34 touchdown passes, the second most for his career. Each of these also represented the league best for 1995.
- Donovan Gans led the CFL in special teams tackles with 35 for the season.
- Marcus Grant set a CFL record for rookies in receiving yardage with 1,550.
- After the season, Matt Dunigan, Jason Phillips, Marcus Grant and Anthony Drawhorn were named to the Canadian Football League's Southern Division All-Stars.
|Pro Football in Birmingham
- Newberry, Paul (July 11, 1988) "City officials Monday opened their arms to another chance in the more-established Canadian Football League." Associated Press.
- Williams, David (January 7, 1995) "CFL says move to Birmingham uncertain." The Commercial Appeal.
- Bryan, Jimmy (January 12, 1995) "An enthusiastic beginning, Art Williams promises CFL will be exciting." Birmingham News.
- Segrest, Doug (January 28, 1995) "Now it's official: City gets CFL team." Birmingham News.
- Segrest, Doug (March 14, 1995) "Call 'em the 'Cudas, CFL team makes Barracudas official." Birmingham News.
- Segrest, Doug (June 26, 1995) "Patterson finds home with Cudas; Cuts roster by 18." Birmingham News.
- Segrest, Doug (December 14, 1995) "Relocation likely fate of Cudas." Birmingham News.
- Birmingham News archives, 1995 editions, online search via LexisNexis database. Accessed October 30, 2006.