|Based in||Shreveport, Louisiana, United States|
|Home field||Independence Stadium|
John Huard |
Bernard Glieberman |
East Division |
Purple, orange, silver, black, and white |
The Shreveport Pirates were a Canadian Football League team, playing at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana, United States, in 1994 and 1995. They were one of the least successful of the CFL's American franchises on and off the field.
The Pirates were created when Bernard Glieberman and his son Lonnie, owners of the Ottawa Rough Riders, made noises about moving the struggling franchise to the United States. The CFL rejected this move, but engineered a deal in which the Rough Riders were essentially split in two. The Gliebermans received an expansion franchise in Shreveport, while a new ownership group took over the Rough Riders name, colours and history.
General manager J. I. Albrecht hired John Huard as head coach, but the Gliebermans overruled him and installed Forrest Gregg as coach before the team took its first snap. It took them until week 15 to record their first victory, a 24–12 victory over the Sacramento Gold Miners. After the historic victory, the team won two out of their last three games, but they still finished last in the CFL East Division with a 3–15 record. Albrecht resigned and sued Glieberman and the Pirates.
Top performers were wide receiver Charles Thompson with 641 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns and running back Martin Patton was the team leading rusher with 659 yards and 8 touchdowns. Terrence Jones had 1,046 yard passing with 4 touchdowns and with 9 interceptions and Mike Johnson, of the University of Akron, passed for 1,259 yards and 4 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. The club averaged 17,871 fans per game (second highest of the American teams, behind only Baltimore), and, once the team snapped its losing streak, attendance rose near the end of the season, with a high of 32,011 for their season-ending victory over the Ottawa Rough Riders, a single game attendance record for the American teams outside of Baltimore.
Shreveport averaged more than 26 points per game in 1995, but gave up better than 28 en route to a 5–13 record. Billy Joe Tolliver completed 252 of 429 passes for 3,440 yards and 14 touchdowns. His favorite target was fellow Texas Tech product Wayne Walker, who caught 51 passes for 790 yards. Curtis Mayfield led the team in receptions with 58 for 846 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. The team's leading rusher was former University of Miami player Martin Patton, who ran for 1,040 yards, third in the league. Kicker Björn Nittmo finished 46 of 53 in field goals and was sixth in the league in scoring.
Despite their dreadful on-field record and the Gliebermans' mismanagement, the Pirates had relatively strong fan support. Shreveport was some distance from the major college teams (LSU, Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas) in the region, leaving high school football as the team's biggest sports competition in the second half of the season, and as such, the Pirates' attendance remained roughly comparable with the established Canadian teams throughout their run. This stood in contrast to the CFL's other Southern teams, the Memphis Mad Dogs and Birmingham Barracudas, both of whom saw their gates drop to unsustainable levels once college football season started.
The problems continued off the field as the Gliebermans tried to relocate the team to Norfolk, Virginia. However, officials there broke off talks after learning that Glieberman faced several lawsuits in Shreveport. Notable about the move to Virginia was "the Great Tucker Caper" when the City of Shreveport tried to seize Bernard Glieberman's 1948 Tucker (which was on loan to a classic automobile museum in downtown Shreveport) for defaulting on debts related to the Pirates' lease at Independence Stadium, including payments for the scoreboard. Glieberman's lawyer, Mark Gilliam, tried to escape with the car and hide the vintage auto, but he ran out of gas along the way. The police spotted him, and took the car back to the museum where it was being stored until the case could be settled. Norfolk wasn't interested in the team in any event due to the Gliebermans' poor business record. The soap opera saga led to the contraction of the team. It appeared that the Birmingham Barracudas would move to Shreveport, but that proposal came to nothing, and by February 1996, the CFL's American experiment ended with the Stallions reorganizing as the Montreal Alouettes and the other teams folding.
Some notable players include running back Gill Fenerty and defensive end Dexter Manley. Kicker Björn Nittmo was also a fan favorite, both for making some very long field goals and for being friendly to the fans, often attending meetings of their Booster Club. Jon Heidenreich played two seasons with the club, and later became popular as a wrestler (WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship). Curiously, two players, Joe Montford and Elfrid Payton, would later go on to fame as winners of the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award (added to this pair is Greg Stumon, who was a former winner of the same award). Uzooma Okeke went on to become one of the best linemen in the history of the Montreal Alouettes and won the 1999 CFL Most Outstanding Lineman award. He became a scout with the Alouettes in 2007.
The Pirates booster club was formed during the team's first season in order to support the team, and remained active long after the team became defunct, spearheading various later attempts to get another professional football team in the Shreveport area.
- CFL USA all-time records and statistics
- Comparison of Canadian and American football
- 1994 CFL season
- 1995 CFL season