It’s March, which most sports fans associate more with basketball than football. But I haven’t had a brag post about my wife in quite some time, and that means we’re taking a spring trip to the gridiron. This past Saturday, my wife Ashley played in her first game as a member of the 2013 D.C. Divas women’s full-contact football team. It was an exhibition match against the Keystone Assault from outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This scrimmage served as a warmup for the Divas’ 2013 regular season opener, which takes place in two weeks in Pittsburgh.

One of the first things people ask when they hear my wife is playing football is, “Is that the lingerie league?” No…the lingerie league is a joke, a publicity stunt more than a real sport. The D.C. Divas are a legitimate, full-contact, full pads and helmet football team; you can watch a few highlights of a recent game below. Trust me, they don’t mess around.

The D.C. Divas have a long and successful history as one of the oldest women’s football teams in the country. Here’s a quick look at the team’s history and how their 2013 season is shaping up.

The D.C. Divas

The D.C. Divas began play in the nation’s capital in 2001; the Divas nickname was chosen by the franchise’s first team. The Divas were founding members of the National Women’s Football League, a league that was promptly renamed the National Women’s Football Association following pressure from the NFL.

In their first season of NWFA play, the 2001 D.C. Divas squad posted a 3-4 record, the only losing season to date in franchise history. They flipped that record to 6-3 the following year, and in 2003, the Divas had their first truly outstanding season. D.C. raced out to a 7-0 record before coming up short in their regular season finale to the Baltimore Burn, 22-14. That kept the Divas from their first perfect regular season in franchise history, but they still clinched their first ever division title and their first playoff berth. The Divas fell in the second round of the 2003 NWFA playoffs to the Philadelphia Phoenix, 36-32.

DC Divas Logo - women's football leagueD.C. then put together their greatest run in team history. From 2004 through 2006, the Divas compiled three consecutive perfect 8-0 records in regular season play, clinching three more division titles and three more playoff berths. In 2004 and 2005, the Divas were handed their first loss in their conference championship game by the Detroit Demolition, which went on both years to claim the national championship.

2006 would be a different story for the Divas, as they broke through to win their first conference title and advance to their first national championship game against the Oklahoma City Lightning. The NWFA championship was held in Pittsburgh, and the Divas routed Oklahoma City, 28-7, to claim their first (and to this point, only) national championship.

The Modern History of the D.C. Divas

After winning their national championship, the Divas left the NWFA for the Independent Women’s Football League; the NWFA collapsed two years later. The 2007 season meant a new league for the Divas, but their regular season dominance was unchanged, as they posted their fourth straight 8-0 regular season (and their fifth straight division title). Even though they lost their first-round playoff game, the 2007 season illustrated that the Divas were a force to be reckoned with…in any league.

Unfortunately for D.C., 2008 was a down season. The Divas opened the year with a 27-22 loss to a new team called the Boston Militia. That snapped a string of 32 straight regular season victories and immediately established Boston as D.C.’s new rival. The Divas finished 2008 with just a 4-4 record, breaking a streak of six winning seasons and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The D.C. Divas returned to form in 2009, however. They posted another perfect 8-0 regular season and defeated Boston, 27-21, in the IWFL Eastern Conference championship game to clinch their second conference title in franchise history. The Divas advanced to the IWFL title game, held just outside of Austin, Texas, against the Kansas City Tribe. In a controversial game where the Divas were called for an inordinately large number of penalties, D.C. was upset by Kansas City, 21-18.

2010 was D.C.’s final season in the IWFL. Although they posted just a 5-3 record, the Divas once again advanced to the Eastern Conference title game before falling to the eventual national champions in Boston. After the season, the D.C. Divas franchise and many of the IWFL’s stronger teams jumped leagues once again…this time to the Women’s Football Alliance.

The Divas split two regular season games with Boston in 2011 on their way to a 7-1 record. But for the second straight year, D.C. fell to Boston in the playoffs, and the Militia went on to claim their second consecutive national title. In 2012, the Divas put together a 5-3 record, their tenth winning season in 12 years of existence. That was good enough to earn the team their ninth playoff berth in the last ten years. Sadly, the 2012 season ended on a sour note, both for the Divas and for women’s football in general.

D.C. met their nemesis, Boston, in the 2012 WFA playoffs, and for the third straight season, the Divas had their season ended by the Militia, this time by a 55-34 score. The game was marred by a nasty on-field brawl in which multiple players from both teams were injured. The unfortunate incident generated some unwanted negative publicity for the Divas and women’s football as a sport. The Divas suffered some very heavy sanctions from the league as a result of their role in the brawl, including a costly monetary fine and multiple suspensions of players for the 2013 season. In addition, several players were either kicked off of the team or not invited back in 2013, and some of those players have decided to start a rival team in the Divas’ old league. As such, the 2013 season looks like it will be a rebuilding year for the Divas.

The 2013 D.C. Divas

The 2013 edition of the D.C. Divas officially kick off their regular season the weekend after next! It’s a difficult eight-game schedule, highlighted by a home-and-home matchup against Boston, a team that has ended the Divas’ season three years running. Boston has won five straight against D.C. and eight of the last nine, so the two games against them will be a very tough challenge.

The schedule also features a home-and-home with the Pittsburgh Passion, a team co-owned by Steelers great Franco Harris. The Passion will play the 2013 season in Highmark Stadium, a brand new soccer stadium in Pittsburgh that will be perfect for the women’s football team. The season opener in the new stadium will be against – you guessed it – the Divas, who lost the season opener last year to Pittsburgh, 35-34. Pittsburgh is a perennially tough team, and their two games with the Divas should be very good contests.

The rest of the schedule features a home-and-home with the Columbus Comets, a home game against New York, and a road game against a new franchise in central Maryland near Baltimore. All in all, it should be one of the strongest schedules the Divas have ever faced.

DC Divas 2013 Schedule

April 6 – @Pittsburgh Passion (opening of Highmark Stadium)

April 13 – @Columbus Comets

April 20 – @Central Maryland Seahawks

April 27 – Boston Militia (home opener)

May 4 – Bye week

May 11 – New York Sharks

May 18 – @Boston Militia

May 25 – Bye week

June 1 – Pittsburgh Passion

June 8 – Columbus Comets (regular season finale)

I’m looking forward to seeing the D.C. Divas in action and hopefully watching them make another run to the playoffs! Good luck, Divas!