-- team story --
In 1995 the CFL continued its expansion into the United States with
franchises in Birmingham and
Memphis. The Birmingham franchise was granted
to Art Williams. Having been spurned by the NFL in his attempts to bring a
franchise to Birmingham, Williams turned to the CFL and paid a healthy sum
rumored to be $3.5 million to bring the CFL to Alabama. The cash infusion
for the league was a saving grace as the CFL was in dire financial
straits. The absolute necessity for the league to secure money to remain
viable clearly was affecting how new franchises were granted and expedited
the planning that would and should normally lead to establishing a new
Williams formed a competent front office
snagging Roy Shivers from Calgary as the teams General Manager. Longtime
football coach and former Houston Oiler head man Jack Pardee was named the
teams head coach. The club made a big splash with the signing of Matt
Dunigan as the team's quarterback. Dunigan signed a highly lucrative
contract and it was felt his southern charm (Dunigan having played at
Louisiana Tech) would attract fans. Dunigan teamed with offensive co-ordinator
John Jenkins to form a potent offence.
The club started strong on the field and at
the box office. 31.185 turned out on July 15th for the home opener to
watch Dunigan and the 'Cudas dominate Hamilton 51-28. The club started the
season 3-0. The teams first loss was to Baltimore 36-8 on July 29th. The
team continued to draw well with 25,321 at their second home game and
30,729 for the loss to Baltimore.
Dunigan was enjoying his finest season
statistically finding new talent in receivers Marcus Grant and Jason
Phillips. By late August attendance had slipped under 20,000 and into
September with the NFL competing for fan interest embarrasing totals of
5,289, 6,314 and 6,859 were recorded. The writing was on the wall for the
franchise. The team finished the year at 10-8 and in the playoffs but
quarterback Matt Dunigan broke his finger in the clubs 2nd last game of
the year and would be out of the playoffs.
In the season finale Birmingham faced San
Antonio in San Antonio. The winner of the game would host the playoff game
the next week. Reserve quarterback Kelvin Simmons played in place of
Dunigan and performed well but The Barracudas lost to San Antonio 48-42.
The next week in San Antonio
David Archer and the Texans humiliated
Birmingham in their last game ever 52-9.
For the season Dunigan led the league in
passing yards with 4,911 the highest total of his career. He also threw 34
touchdowns. Marcus Grant was the top receiver on the team with 1,559 yards
and 11 touchdowns, Jason Phillips had 1,101 yards receiving with 8
touchdowns. Keith Woodside a former Green Bay Packer was the teams feature
running back he had 603 yards rushing and 780 yards receiving.
Birmingham as a city has a great football
history. College Football is huge in the state and the city of Birmingham.
Fan interest was there at the beginning for the team to witness some
thrilling action by Dunigan and the Barracudas but by the time September
had come around fan apathy was clear. It was a noble effort by Williams to
try for success with the Canadian Football League but by midseason
ownership realized that the experiment was a failure. The Birmingham
Barracudas down in the southern United States as part of the Canadian
Football League was ultimately proved to be a fish out of water.