There has been discussion lately about St. Louis getting a franchise in the Canadian Football League (CFL) after losing two National Football League (NFL) teams (Cardinals and Rams). A CFL franchise in a United States city? Crazy right? Oddly enough, it has been tried before when the CFL migrated south in 1993 by adding the Sacramento Gold Miners. The following season, the CFL expanded to Baltimore, Las Vegas and Shreveport. In 1995 the league added Birmingham, Memphis and San Antonio (relocated from Sacramento). Although they expanded into cities without NFL teams (Baltimore had lost the Colts and before the Ravens), American fans were not as receptive to the Canadian version. Most American football stadiums had problems adjusting to the larger Canadian football field dimensions.
Personally, I thought the U.S. expansion would work, especially in cities that didn’t have NFL franchises. The new teams had initial success but the different version and without a major television contract, the teams were not able to survive. Another factor most think was that the CFL season runs from July to November which forced American teams to play the first half of the season in the heat – especially with most franchises located in the South – and the second half of the season competing with high school, college and the NFL.
Baltimore was the most successful US franchise and became the only American team to win the Grey Cup when they defeated the Calgary Stampeders 37-20 in the 1995 Grey Cup.
Baltimore was an interesting story as they were initially known as the “CFL Colts” but the NFL went to court and successfully obtained a legal injunction against the team’s use of “Colts” in their name. Their name was temporarily changed to “Baltimore Football Club” until they changed it to the “Stallions” before the 1995 season.
The “U.S. Experiment” ended when it was announced that the Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore to become the Ravens in 1996. That effectively terminated the most successful franchise along with Memphis and Birmingham folding.
Many experts think that the CFL could have made it had they expanded closer to the border instead of the locations such as Shreveport, Birmingham and Memphis. Shreveport? Really?
It is doubtful that a CFL franchise in St. Louis could work but perhaps in cities like Portland, Milwuakee, Anchorage and Rochester.
CFL in America
1993 – Sacramento Gold Miners (6-12)
1994 – Baltimore CFLers (12-6), Sacramento Gold Miners (9-8-1), Las Vegas Posse (5-13), Shreveport Pirates (3-15)
Playoffs: Baltimore 34, Toronto 15 (Division Semifinals); Baltimore 14, Winnipeg 12 (Division Finals); British Columbia Lions 26, Baltimore 23 (Grey Cup Final)
1995 – Baltimore Stallions (15-3), San Antonio Texans (12-6), Birmingham Barracudas (10-8), Memphis Mad Dogs (9-9), Shreveport Pirates (5-13)
Playoffs: San Antonio 52, Birmingham 9; Baltimore 36, Winnipeg 21 (Division Semifinals); Baltimore 21, San Antonio 11 (Division Finals); Baltimore 37, Calgary 20 (Grey Cup Final)