25th Anniversary of Birmingham’s First Win In… The Canadian Football League?
On July 4th, 1995 the Birmingham Barracudas won their first game as a new expansion franchise in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
The CFL started its expansion into United States after approving franchise rights, in a vote of 7-1, for San Antonio and Sacramento in 1993. During the last year of the CFL expansion in 1995, Arthur Williams, an insurance tycoon, was awarded a CFL franchise that was to play in Birmingham, Alabama.
Birmingham’s new hope for professional sports would call Legion Field their home stadium and average over 17,000 fans for each game. In Williams’ own words, he chose the name for the team mascot, the Barracudas, because he wanted the name to “scare the spit out of people”. The Barracudas only existed for a single season, went 10-8, and lost in their first playoff game during the lone campaign.
Reportedly, Williams appealed to the CFL to allow the Birmingham Barracudas to play on Sundays because of the competition for viewers on Friday and Saturday evening. Though a majority of the CFL season is played during the summer, Williams knew later games in the season would struggle to draw fans because of the prominence of both high school and college football in Alabama.
The 1995 CFL Championship, known as the Grey Cup, was won by the Baltimore Stallions, the only American franchise to ever win the title. After his only season, Arthur Williams, along with the other American CFL franchises, requested rules and game formatting changes that would make the product visually closer to NFL football. The CFL rejected all proposals and Williams sold the team in 1996 for $750,000. By January, the CFL had decided to end all of its expansion franchises due to lack of fan interest.
Quarterback Matt Dungian is one of the more notable players to suit up for the Barracudas. After arguably having his most successful season while in Birmingham, Dungian, the Ohio-native, was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame class of 1996. His backup was Reggie Slack who played quarterback in college for Auburn Hall-of-Famer, Pat Dye.
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