-- photos --
-- team story --
In 1995 the CFL continued its expansion into the United States with
franchises in Birmingham and Memphis. The Memphis franchise was granted to
Fred Smith the President and CEO of Federal Express. It came out later
that the franchise was granted to Smith for the nominal fee of $100,000
with an agreement that Fed-Ex would be a major league sponsor. Smith
appointed long-time Memphis football backer Pepper Rodgers as team
president. Rodgers who had been involved in the USFL team in the city had
long been pursuing a rival league to the NFL and he saw the CFL as his
The team was dubbed the Mad Dogs and despite
an apparent lack of organization in the team head office there was
optimism of reaching the league mandated 20,000 season tickets. The club
was not close to 20,000 season tickets when the 1995 season kicked off.
Rodgers who anointed himself a head coach had brought in experienced
CFL'rs in offensive co-ordinator Adam Rita, quarterback Damon Allen and
Defensive End Tim Cofield. With less than 8,000 season tickets the Mad
Dogs drew 14,278 to their regular season home opener a disappointing total
in the cavernous Liberty Bowl.
On the field Memphis had their first victory
in their third game a 11-5 home triumph over Saskatchewan. Memphis proved
to have a dominant defence but struggled on offence. Further compounding
the offences at the Liberty Bowl, because of the dimensions, the end zones
were as little as 7 yards deep in some areas rather than the standard 20
Ownerships commitment was further tested when
it was announced that the Houston Oilers of the National Football League
would be relocating to Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville required time to
build a NFL ready stadium, in the interim it became common knowledge that
Memphis would be the stand-in for Nashville until their stadium was ready.
Fred Smith held exclusive stadium rights for professional football at the
Liberty Bowl and in that the option of bringing NFL football at least
temporarily to Memphis.
The club had a season high crowd of 20,012 on
August 19 for a 16-13 loss to Baltimore however fan apathy continued. The
season ended with a 9-9 record for Memphis, a respectable total for a
first year club anchored by a tough defence. Alex Gordon the clubs 21 year
old Defensive End from the UNiversity of Cincinatti led the defence with
61 tackles and 7 sacks. Tim Cofield had 5 sacks and veteran CFL linebacker
Greg Battle had 4. On offence the story was rookie wide receiver
a free agent signee out of Itawamba Community College Horn had 1,415 yard
receiving almost 1,000 more receiving yards than any other Mad Dog. Horn
scored 4 touchdowns and served notice to the world of football he was a
talent that could not be ignored. Horn has gone on to become a perennial
pro-bowl receiver with the New Orleans Saints of the NFL. pictured is
screen captures of a 50 yard touchdown run by Horn.
Quarterback Damon Allen had an inconsistent
season with 3,211 yards passing for 11 touchdowns and 113 interceptions,
he added over 400 yards rushing.
Memphis narrowly missed the playoffs with the
10-8 Birmingham Barracudas edging them out. The final game of the teams
existence was a 25-14 loss at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos on October
26, 1995 in front of 12,078 home fans.
The high hopes of CFL football in Memphis
with a big name owner in Fred Smith quickly vanished for the league. The
commitment was not there from Fred Smith and with an initial investment of
only $100,000. The U.S. expansion experiment was a failure. After the 1995
season all of the U.S. based clubs folded or relocated to Canada. Pepper
Rodgers saw the Mad Dogs as a chance to change the CFL and move back to a
USFL format. Without a\the commitment to the CFL and what the league is
and has been it can only be concluded in hindsight that the team in
Memphis was doomed from the beginning.
-- players --
-- stadium attendance --
1995 Avg: 14,550