American Football Wiki
Birmingham Fire
Birmingham Fire helmet Birmingham Fire logo

Current team status: Defunct
Based in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
League WLAF / NFL Europa
Team colors Navy, Gold, Crimson, White
Team history
Founded 1991
Folded 1992
/ World Bowl wins
franchise record (in W-L-T):
Regular Season: 12–7–1 Postseason: 0–2
Uniform WLAF-Birmingham Fire jerseys.png

The Birmingham Fire were a professional American football team based in Birmingham, Alabama. They were a member of the North American West of the World League of American Football (WLAF) and played their home games at Legion Field. The club was a charter member of the WLAF, and was under the ownership of Gavin Maloof. Led by head coach Chan Gailey, the Fire saw moderate success as they compiled an overall record of twelve wins, nine losses and one tie (12–9–1) and made the playoffs in both seasons they competed. The franchise folded in September 1992 when the NFL placed the league on an indefinite hiatus.


In June 1989, WLAF president Tex Schramm and other league officials met with Birmingham leaders to discuss the possibility of fielding a team at Legion Field.[1] At that time Schramm stated the Birmingham was under consideration for a franchise based on its past support of the Americans/Vulcans of the World Football League and the Stallions of the United States Football League.[1] The following July, the National Football League (NFL) owners voted to approve the formation of the WLAF in an effort to expand the sport outside of the United States.[2] At the time of the announcement the league was envisioned to have twelve teams with London, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Milan, New York City, Montreal, Mexico City and Northern California as being already selected for franchises.[2] Birmingham was identified as a contender for one of the final four franchises along with Nashville, San Antonio and Orlando.[2]

On April 18, 1990, Birmingham became the second city in the United States officially awarded a franchise after the Orlando Thunder to compete in the inaugural WLAF season.[3][4] At the time of the announcement, Schramm reiterated past support for professional football in Birmingham was a major reason for its selection for a franchise.[4] A group headed by former Houston Rockets president Gavin Maloof was revealed as owners of the Birmingham franchise in November 1990. At that time the league reaffirmed it would begin play in March 1991 with ten teams, and that Birmingham would compete as a member of the North American West division with the Sacramento Surge and the San Antonio Riders.[5] On December 6, Michael Huyghue was introduced as general manager, and at the time of his being hired, he was the first African American general manager of a professional football team.[6] On December 21, 1990, Chan Gailey was introduced as the first head coach of the Fire.[7]


1991 season

1991 Birmingham Fire season
Head Coach Chan Gailey
General Manager Michael Huyghue
Home Field Legion Field
Record 4–6
Place 3rd
Playoff Finish Lost to Barcelona Dragons in semifinals
Season chronology
Previous Season Next Season
none 1992

In February 1991, the WLAF held its inaugural draft, and unlike the NFL Draft, the WLAF version was carried out with individual positions being drafted over a period of several days.[8] Offensive linemen were drafted on February 14; running backs, punters and placekickers on February 16; quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends on February 18; defensive linemen on February 20; linebackers on February 22; and defensive backs on February 24.[8] The most notable player drafted by the Fire was when they selected Brent Pease with the first overall selection in the quarterbacks draft.[9] Training camp started shortly thereafter, and in mid-March the Fire lost to San Antonio in a controlled scrimmage at San Marcos, Texas.[10]

The Fire played their first game on March 23 against the Montreal Machine at Legion Field.[11] Although they lost 20–5, an attendance of over 53,000 resulted in the start of the game being delayed 21 minutes to allow fans into the stadium as only two gates were open at the time.[12] The next week, the Fire won their first game against the Sacramento Surge.[13] The 17–10 win only drew 16,000 spectators, but the featured a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by John Miller.[13] The team then alternated pairs of wins and losses over their remaining eight regular season games. The first pair of losses came on the road against Montreal and at home against the London Monarchs. In their first all-time road game, Birmingham lost to the Machine 23–10 before 27,766 fans at Olympic Stadium.[14] One week later, they suffered their only shutout of the season in their 27–0 loss against eventual World Bowl champion London.[15] Birmingham then rebounded with a 31–6 road win at the Orlando Thunder and a 16–12 with at home against San Antonio to even their overall record at 3–3.[16][17]

The Fire then lost both of the games played in Europe, and as a result their record dropped to 3–5. The first loss came against the Barcelona Dragons in an 11–6 defeat and against the Frankfurt Galaxy in their 10–3 loss at the Waldstadion.[18][19] In their final home game of the season, Birmingham defeated the New York/New Jersey Knights 24–14 to put the team in contention for the last playoff spot as they entered the final week of the regular season.[20] In their regular season finale the Fire defeated the Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks 28–7, and clinched a spot in the first WLAF playoffs as the winners of the North American West division with a 5–5 record.[21] In the WLAF semifinals, Birmingham lost for the second time in the season to Barcelona 10–3 at Legion Field to finish their inaugural season with a final record of 5–6.[22]

In the buildup to their playoff game in the months that followed, the Fire started their effort to host World Bowl '92 at Legion Field.[23] In the formal request for the event, team ownership indicated they were willing to undertake a $12 million renovation of the facility that would increase the seating capacity from 72,000 to 80,000, add luxury skyboxes and a giant TV scoreboard.[23] Ultimately the league awarded the game to Montreal in December 1991.[24] Michael Huyghue resigned as general manager on June 20 to take a position in the WLAF front office.[25]


1991 Birmingham Fire staff

Front office:

  • President/Majority Owner - Gavin Maloof
  • Vice President/General Manager - Michael Huyghue

Head Coaches

Offensive Coaches

  • Running Backs – Michael O'Toole
  • Wide Receivers – Steve Marks
  • Offensive Line – Joe D'Alessandris

Defensive Coaches

  • Defensive Line – Pete Hurt
  • Linebackers – Gene Smith
  • Defensive Secondary – Stanley King

Support Staff

  • Head Athletic Trainer – Mike Roberts
  • Equipment Manager – Doug West

1991 Final roster[26]

1991 Birmingham Fire roster
  •  5 Gene Benhart
  •  7 Eric Jones
  •  10 Brent Pease

Running Backs

  •  26 Steve Avery
  •  41 Kenny Bell
  •  21 David Clark
  •  31 Elroy Harris
  •  20 Joe Henderson
  •  31 Charles Sanders

Wide Receivers

  •  80 Willie Bouyer
  •  83 Stacey Mobley
  •  85 Melvin Patterson
  •  89 Ted Wilson

Tight Ends

  •  87 Mark Hopkins
  •  82 Phil Ross
  •  67 Sergio Vissa
Offensive Linemen
  •  50 Bill Anderson C
  •  73 Buddy King T
  •  60 Jason Kuipers G
  •  79 R. C. Mullin T
  •  61 Michael Pavik G
  •  63 Rich Schonewolf G
  •  59 Michael Tanks C
  •  52 Paul Yniguez C
  •  96 Arthur Walker T

Defensive Linemen

  •  70 Tony Bowick NT
  •  98 Pellom McDaniels DE
  •  71 Otis Moore NT
  •  62 Darrell Phillips NT
  •  72 Okland Salave'a DE
  •  54 John Brantley
  •  99 Randy Cockrell
  •  56 Steve Hyche
  •  75 Junior Jackson
  •  53 Paul McGowan
  •  59 Maurice Oliver
  •  57 Steve Thompson

Defensive Backs

  •  28 Alex Armenteros SS
  •  45 James Henry CB
  •  21 John Holland CB
  •  24 Arthur Hunter SS
  •  44 John Miller FS
  •  24 Anthony Newsom CB
  •  44 Derrick Richey CB
  •  6 Hans Riecke SS
  •  27 Tracy Sanders CB

Special Teams

  •  1 Win Lyle K
  •  8 Kirk Maggio P

1992 season

1992 Birmingham Fire season
Head Coach Chan Gailey
General Manager Rich Nichols
Home Field Legion Field
Record 7–3-1
Place 2nd in North American West division
Playoff Finish Lost to Orlando Thunder in semifinals
Season chronology
Previous Season Next Season
1991 None

In December 1991, Rick Nichols was hired from the Houston Oilers to serve as general manager of the Fire.[27] In February 1992, the league held its second annual draft and Birmingham made 29 selection during its two days.[28][29] In addition to those players drafted, an additional six players were allocated to the Fire from NFL teams that retained their overall rights.[30] By March, the team was again in training camp, but this season had an official preseason game to play against the London Monarchs. In this game, the Fire lost 14–13, and in a first in professional sports the loss could be utilized as a potential tiebreaker in order to determine playoff eligibility.[31][32]

The Fire opened the season for the second consecutive season with a loss in their opening game, and on the road at Sacramento, Birmingham lost 20–6.[33] They then rebounded by going undefeated over the four games that followed. After a 17–10 victory in their home opener against San Antonio, Birmingham earned their first all-time win in Europe with a 17–7 win at Frankfurt.[34][35] The next week, Birmingham tied London 17–17 at Wembley Stadium. The draw was both the first in the history of the World League, and remained as the only one until Berlin and Hamburg battled to a 17–17 tie as part of NFL Europe in 2006.[36][37] The Fire returned from Europe and defeated Sacramento 28–14 in a rematch of their week one matchup.[38] In week six, Birmingham lost 17–10 on the road to division rival San Antonio before they ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak.[39]

Against Barcelona, the Fire withstood a fourth quarter comeback and defeated the Dragons for the first time in franchise history 19–7.[40] The next week, Birmingham defeated Montreal for the first time and also won their first overtime game with their 23–16 victory over the Machine.[41] A failed two-point conversion gave the Fire a 24–23 victory over Orlando and a comeback, 27–24 victory at the Ohio Glory in the final game of the season allowed Birmingham to qualify for the playoffs as a wild card.[42][43] In their semifinals appearance, numerous turnovers resulted in a 45–7 defeat at Orlando to finish the season with a record of 7–3–1.[44]


1992 Birmingham Fire staff

Front Office

  • Owner/President – Gavin Maloof
  • Vice President/General Manager – Rick Nichols
  • Vice President of Football Operations – Chan Gailey
  • Player Personnel Coordinator – Joe Baker

Head Coaches

  • Head Coach – Chan Gailey

Offensive Coaches

  • Running Backs – Michael O'Toole
  • Tight Ends/Special Teams – Joel Williams
  • Offensive Line – Joe D'Alessandris

Defensive Coaches

  • Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers – Gene Smith
  • Defensive Line – Pete Hurt
  • Secondary – Stanley King

Support Staff

  • Head Athletic Trainer – Mike Roberts
  • Equipment Manager – Doug West

1992 Final roster[45]

1992 Birmingham Fire roster
  • 12 Shawn Moore
  • 5 Mike Norseth
  • 7 Eric Jones

Running Backs

  • 26 Steve Avery
  • 31 Elroy Harris
  • 20 Joe Henderson
  • 31 Charles Sanders

Wide Receivers

  • 80 Willie Bouyer
  • 89 Eddie Britton
  • 83 Anthony Green
  • -- Andreas Motzkus
  • 84 Eugene Rowell

Tight Ends

  • 87 Mark Hopkins
  • 88 Craig Hudsom
  • 88 Kirk Kirkpatrick
  • 82 Phil Ross
Offensive Linemen
  • 50 Bill Anderson C
  • 65 Rick Apolskis G
  • 67 Carl Bax G
  • 63 Tony DeLorenzo T
  • 76 Caesar Rentie T
  • 63 Rich Schonewolf G
  • 74 Joe Valerio C

Defensive Linemen

  • 70 Tony Bowick NT
  • 98 Pellom McDaniels DE
  • 71 Otis Moore NT
  • 62 Darrell Phillips NT


  • 54 John Brantley
  • 96 Anthony Henton OLB/DE
  • 75 Junior Jackson
  • 53 Paul McGowan
  • 94 Craig Ogletree
  • 59 Maurice Oliver

Defensive Backs

  • 43 Simmie Carter CB
  • 28 Fred Foggie CB
  • 29 Antonio Gibson CB
  • 45 James Henry CB
  • 21 John Holland CB
  • 24 Arthur Hunter SS
  • 44 John Miller FS
  • 27 Tracy Sanders CB

Special Teams

  • 3 Philip Doyle K
  • 8 Kirk Maggio P


1992 Schedule/Results

Week Date Game Result Score Attendance
1 Sun. Mar. 21 @ Sacramento Surge L 20-6 17,920
2 Sun. Mar. 29 vs. San Antonio Riders W 17-10 16,250
3 Sun. Apr. 5 @ Frankfurt Galaxy W 17-7 33,857
4 Sat. Apr. 11 @ London Monarchs T 17-17 (OT) 20,370
5 Sat. Apr. 18 vs. Sacramento Surge W 28-14 20,794
6 Sat. Apr. 25 @ San Antonio Riders L 17-14 13,590
7 Sat. May. 2 vs. Barcelona Dragons W 19-17 11,187
8 Sun. May. 10 vs. Montreal Machine W 23-16 (OT) 9,764
9 Sun. May 17 vs. Orlando Thunder W 24-23 15,186
10 Sat. May 23 @ Ohio Glory W 27-24 23,020
Playoffs Sat. May 30 @ Orlando Thunder L 45-7 28,746

Season-by-season records

Season League Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
1991 WLAF 5 5 0 .500 1st (North American West) 0 1 .000 Lost to Barcelona Dragons in semifinal
1992 WLAF 7 2 1 .750 2nd (North American West) 0 1 .000 Lost to Orlando Thunder in semifinal
Total 12 7 1 .625 0 2 .000


In August 1992, Maloof sold the franchise back to the league.[46] At that time league officials asked former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr to help find a new ownership group in Alabama.[46] On September 17, 1992, the NFL decided to place the WLAF on an indefinite hiatus.[47] The owners stated that the decision was made to shutter the league at that time in an effort to save money to settle potential class action lawsuits brought about by players in the wake of Plan B free agency being declared illegal.[47] The NFL stated that when the league was reestablished it would be focused on European markets with no more than one or two teams envisioned for play in the United States.[47]

Life after the WLAF

After the dissolution of the franchise, several of its former coaches and front office personnel moved onto other endeavors. Chan Gailey was named the head coach at Samford University in January 1992 to replace the departed Terry Bowden.[48] When he left to re-enter the NFL after only one season with the Bulldogs, he was replaced by former Fire offensive line coach Pete Hurt.[49] Gailey went on to become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Buffalo Bills.[50] Former owner Gavin Maloof joined his brother in the late 1990s to become owners of the National Basketball Association's Sacramento Kings.[51]

In 1995 World League returned after a two-year hiatus, and the Fire nickname was resurrected in Düsseldorf, Germany as the Rhein Fire.[52] Professional football returned to Birmingham in 1995 when the Canadian Football League (CFL) awarded what became the Birmingham Barracudas as part of their CFL USA expansion.[53] The Barracudas only played the one season and folded, and Birmingham's next football team, the XFL's Birmingham Thunderbolts, met the same fate.

Currently, Alabama remains a stronghold in the college football game with the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide, coached by Nick Saban.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hoyt, Harwell. "New league interested in Birmingham", Google News, June 22, 1989, p. C1. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Eskenazi, Gerald. "Global N.F.L. game plan: New league, new lands",, July 20, 1989. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  3. "Birmingham gets World League team",, April 17, 1990. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Birmingham logical choice for Schramm, new league", Google News, April 19, 1990, p. D1. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  5. "Franchise report for World League",, November 15, 1990. Retrieved on July 26, 2012. 
  6. "First black football GM named in Birmingham",, December 7, 1990. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  7. "Birmingham hires Gailey", Google News, December 22, 1990, p. 3B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Brown, Ben. "WLAF ready to hire players", Lexis Nexis, February 12, 1991, p. 1B. 
  9. "Ex-Montana star goes first in WLAF Draft", Google News, February 19, 1991, p. C2. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  10. Griffin, Tim. "Riders outscore Birmingham in controlled scrimmage", Newsbank, March 14, 1991. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  11. Felts, Jerry. "Montreal extinguishes Fire", Google News, March 25, 1991, p. 6C. Retrieved on July 28, 2012. 
  12. "WLAF gets big greeting in Birmingham", Google News, March 25, 1991, p. 9. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Fire's small crowd not disappointing", Google News, April 1, 1991, p. 7B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  14. "Former NFL player burns Fire", Google News, April 9, 1991, p. B1. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  15. Mason, Bret. "Monarchs put out the Fire", Google News, April 16, 1991, p. 1B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  16. Collins, Dwight. "Fire lights up Orlando en route to 31–6 victory", Google News, April 22, 1991, p. 1C. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  17. "Fire holds off rally to beat Raiders", Google News, April 30, 1991, p. D1. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  18. "Rice guides Dragons' win with 354 yard performance", Google News, May 5, 1991, p. D5. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  19. "Frankfurt rallies to drown Fire", Google News, May 13, 1991, p. B5. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  20. "Fire wins, shares lead in division", Google News, May 21, 1991, p. D3. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  21. "Playoff bound Fire wins season finale", Google News, May 27, 1991, p. 4B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  22. Southern, Michael. "Fire falls, 10–3", Google News, June 2, 1991, p. 1C. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Marshak, Larry. "Birmingham, Montreal make pitches for '92", Lexis Nexis, June 4, 1991, p. 6B. 
  24. MacDonald, Ian. "Montreal gets World Bowl '92 against long odds", Lexis Nexis, December 20, 1991, p. F1. 
  25. "Deals: Football", Lexis Nexis, June 20, 1991, p. 11C. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Opening-day rosters, schedules", Lexis Nexis, March 20, 1991, p. 10C. 
  27. "Oil to the fire", Lexis Nexis, December 19, 1991, p. 1B. 
  28. "Scoreboard: 1992 World League Draft", Google News, February 5, 1992, p. C2. 
  29. "Scoreboard: 1992 World League Draft", Google News, February 6, 1992, p. D2. 
  30. "NFL stocks World League", via Lexis Nexis, February 21, 1992. 
  31. Wetherell, Richard. "Season opens with tie-breakers", via Lexis Nexis, March 14, 1992. 
  32. Elliott, Ken. "Monarchs have McNair to thank", via Lexis Nexis, March 16, 1992. 
  33. "Surge burns fire in opener", Google News, March 23, 1991, p. 15. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  34. "Fire beats San Antonio", Google News, March 30, 1991, p. 3B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  35. "Fire burns unbeaten Galaxy, ties for first", Google News, April 6, 1991, p. C3. Retrieved on July 31, 2012. 
  36. "Doyle's field goal gives Fire tie", Google News, April 12, 1991, p. C4. Retrieved on July 29, 2012. 
  37. "Late FG lifts Thunder to 17–17 tie with Hamburg", via HighBeam Research, April 1, 2006. Retrieved on August 1, 2012.  Template:Subscription required
  38. "Fire grabs 28–14 win over Surge", Google News, April 19, 1992, p. E4. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  39. "Fire beats San Antonio", Google News, March 30, 1991, p. 3B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  40. "Fire tops Barcelona", Google News, May 3, 1992, p. C4. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  41. "Machine's OT gamble fails; Fire keeps World League playoff hopes alive", via Lexis Nexis, May 11, 1992, p. E3. 
  42. "Thunder rally falls shy in loss to Birmingham", Google News, May 18, 1992, p. 3B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  43. "Doyle kicks Birmingham into playoffs", Google News, May 25, 1992, p. 3B. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  44. Collins, Dwight. "Thunder blows out Fire", Google News, May 31, 1992, p. 5C. Retrieved on August 1, 2012. 
  45. Gilligan, Patrick. 1992 Birmingham Fire Roster. The Football Database. Retrieved on July 29, 2012.
  46. 46.0 46.1 Carey, Jack. "Fire sale", via Lexis Nexis, August 4, 1992, p. 1C. 
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 Freeman, Mike. "NFL postpones expansion, World League return", via HighBeam Research, September 18, 1992. Retrieved on August 2, 2012.  Template:Subscription required
  48. "Samford tabs Gailey to take over as coach", Google News, January 12, 1993, p. 2B. Retrieved on August 2, 2012. 
  49. "Sparks backs out, Samford names Hurt", Google News, February 2, 1994, p. 2C. Retrieved on August 2, 2012. 
  50. "Bills hire Gailey as coach",, January 20, 2010. Retrieved on August 2, 2012. 
  51. "New Owners For the Kings",, January 16, 1999. Retrieved on August 2, 2012. 
  52. "World League will return", Google News, January 27, 1995, p. B2. Retrieved on August 2, 2012. 
  53. "CFL expansion franchise coming to Birmingham for 1995 season", Newsbank, January 12, 1995. Retrieved on August 2, 2012. 

External links

Template:Birmingham Fire

World League of American Football/NFL Europa
Teams Teams (cont'd)
1991 1992 1993 no season 1994 no season 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007

See also

  • World Bowl
  • Intercontinental Football League