Franchise History

The D.C. Divas are one of the most well-known and successful teams in women’s tackle football. The Divas play in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), which is currently the largest and strongest league in women’s football. The D.C. Divas rank first among all WFA teams in victories, seasons played, games played, playoff appearances, and division championships. The Divas have a 120-36 record in 16 seasons of play and have played in four national championship games, claiming three national titles after undefeated seasons in 2006, 2015, and 2016.

Birth of a Dynasty (2001-2003)

D.C. Divas LogoThe D.C. Divas were founded in 2000 as one of ten charter franchises in the National Women’s Football Association (NWFA). The team made their full-contact football debut in the spring of 2001. The NWFA gave them their nickname Divas, and the team’s logo was designed by Francis Santaquilani. With the Divas completing their 15th season of play in 2015, they are the third-longest running franchise in women’s football history after the Minnesota Vixen and the New York Sharks.

Composed of women from varied professional and athletic backgrounds, the team was the first of its kind in the national capital region and were coached by Ezra Cooper. The Divas earned their first victory on May 13, 2001, with a win over the Connecticut Crush. They finished their inaugural season with a 3-4 record, the team’s only losing season to date.

Before their second season, the Divas franchise was purchased by Leah Fahringer and Kelly George. The Divas finished the 2002 season with a 6-3 record, the first of six consecutive winning seasons for the team. A chance at the Divas’ first playoff berth came down to their final game of the year, but the Divas fell short of the Baltimore Burn in their season finale, 6-0.

National Women's Football Association NWFA LogoThe Divas took another step forward in 2003. They started the season 7-0, with a loss in the regular season finale keeping the team from its first ever undefeated regular season. Despite that, the Divas’ 7-1 record clinched the first of five consecutive playoff berths and division titles. After defeating the Connecticut Crush in their first ever playoff game, the Divas fell to the Philadelphia Phoenix in a hard-fought contest in the conference semifinals.

The Divas were led in 2003 by Donna Wilkinson, who became the first known player in women’s football history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a single season by totaling 1,267 rushing yards that year. Wilkinson, a member of the original 2001 Divas team, is the only player from that team still on the Divas roster; Wilkinson played her 15th season with the Divas in 2015. The Divas also gained national exposure in 2003 when they were featured in a segment on the CBS Evening News.

2003 CBS Evening News

The Road to a National Championship (2004-2006)

In 2004, the Divas compiled an 8-0 record in the regular season, the first perfect regular season in team history. Their 8-0 record gave the Divas home-field advantage throughout the NWFA Northern Conference playoffs. After defeating the Southwest Michigan Jaguars in the conference semifinals, the Divas lost to the eventual NWFA champions, the Detroit Demolition, in the Northern Conference championship game, 20-14.

The following offseason was an eventful one for the Divas. In November, the Divas played in a charity game against a men’s team assembled by The Sports Junkies, who host a local syndicated sports radio show. Although the Divas lost, 28-6, the contest set a new record for the highest attendance at a women’s tackle football game, as approximately 8,200 fans came to the event.

Also that offseason, the Divas had a second ownership change when Fahringer and George sold the franchise to current owner Paul Hamlin. Hamlin purchased the team in part to support his daughter, Divas’ starting quarterback Allyson Hamlin. Allyson Hamlin has compiled 88 victories as the starting quarterback of the Divas, the most in women’s football history.

National Women's Football Association NWFA New LogoThe 2005 D.C. Divas season was almost an exact replay of 2004. The Divas again rolled through the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record, but for the second straight year, they were handed their first defeat of the season in the Northern Conference championship game by the eventual NWFA champion Detroit Demolition.

That offseason, the Divas made several changes, as Paul Hamlin put his stamp on the franchise. The team moved from Eastern High School in Washington, DC, to the new Prince George’s Sports Complex in nearby Landover, Maryland. A new uniform design for the Divas was also unveiled. These changes set the stage for the biggest moment in the franchise’s history.

As was the case the past two seasons, the Divas finished 2006 with a perfect 8-0 regular season, winning games in dominant fashion. The Divas’ stifling defense allowed just six points the entire regular season, giving up six points in the team’s season opener before pitching seven consecutive shutouts. The Divas’ offense was just as imposing, rolling to a scoring average of over 47 points per game.

A shutout victory in the team’s playoff opener – their eighth shutout in a row, a women’s football record – put the Divas in the conference championship game for the third straight year. Unlike ’04 and ’05, however, the Divas won the conference championship, defeating the Columbus Comets, 32-7, and advancing to their first ever national championship game. The Divas traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Oklahoma City Lightning for the 2006 NWFA national championship. The Divas capped an 11-0 season with a 28-7 victory over the Lightning for the team’s first national championship. Running back Rachelle Pecovsky and linebacker Ivy Tillman were named offensive and defensive MVP of the game, respectively, and Pecovsky earned a mention in Sports Illustrated magazine for her performance.

A New League and A Conference Title (2007-2009)

After claiming their national championship in the NWFA, the Divas left the league after six seasons to join the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL). The Divas jumped to the IWFL in the search for stronger competition, which now included their archrivals, the Detroit Demolition.

2006 National Championship Celebration D.C. Divas women's football Allyson HamlinThe Divas were just as successful in this new league, finishing with an 8-0 regular season record for the fourth straight year and capturing the Mid-Atlantic Division title. That record included a memorable 24-22 victory over the eventual national champion Detroit Demolition, as the Divas avenged two recent playoff losses to Detroit. Combined with the 2006 season, the Divas had compiled a franchise-record 19-game winning streak. But the Divas’ first appearance in the IWFL playoffs ended in disappointment when they suffered an upset loss in the conference semifinals to the defending IWFL champion Atlanta Xplosion.

After a remarkable run of success, 2008 was a disappointing year for the Divas. The Divas saw their 32-game regular season winning streak snapped, as they suffered four losses in 2008. Each of their losses were by six points or less and came down to the final two minutes of the game. The Divas finished the year with a 4-4 record, their worst since 2001. Because of that record, the Divas failed to win their division and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Following the season, legendary coach Ezra Cooper stepped down after eight outstanding seasons guiding the franchise.

Rebounding from the 2008 campaign, the Divas returned to their winning ways in 2009. The Divas compiled a perfect 8-0 regular season record for the fifth time and claimed the Mid-Atlantic division title. After a tough victory over the Pittsburgh Passion, the Divas advanced to the Eastern Conference championship game, where they traveled to face the undefeated Boston Militia. In a thrilling game, the Divas defeated the Militia, 27-21, giving the franchise their second conference championship.

On July 25, 2009, the Divas went to Round Rock, Texas, a suburb of Austin, to play the Kansas City Tribe for the 2009 IWFL national championship. The Divas led the Tribe, 10-7, in the third quarter but eventually fell to Kansas City in a penalty-plagued contest. The Kansas City Tribe upset the Divas, 21-18, handing the Divas their first loss of the year and taking home the national championship in the process. That offseason, former Divas wide receiver Natalie Randolph made national headlines as one of the first women to ever lead a high school football team when she was hired as the head football coach at Coolidge High School in Washington, DC.

Setting Records and Battling Boston (2010-2014)

In 2010, the Divas captured their seventh division title in eight years. They earned a measure of revenge for their 2007 playoff loss to the Atlanta Xplosion by defeating Atlanta, 35-7, and advancing to the Eastern Conference championship for the second straight season. Their bid to make a second straight national title game fell short, however, when they were shut out for the first time in eight years by the eventual national champions, the Boston Militia. The Divas earned even more national exposure that season when they were featured on CNN as part of a team profile.

Women's Football Alliance WFA LogoAfter the 2010 season, the Divas – along with many of their rivals – moved from the IWFL to the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), beginning in 2011. This simultaneous move by ten of the top franchises in women’s football solidified the WFA as the strongest league in women’s football, and the Divas moved with them to ensure their spot among the best competition the sport has to offer.

In their first year in the new league, the Divas didn’t slow down. In their first game as a member of the WFA, the Divas handed the Boston Militia a 35-20 setback, their only regular season defeat in a six-year span. The Divas easily won the Northeast Division with a 7-1 record, but for the second year in a row, the Boston Militia ended the Divas’ season by knocking them out of the playoffs; Boston went on to win their second straight national title with an 11-1 record. After the season, the Divas made a change, hiring Alison Fischer as their new head coach. Fischer played ten seasons as a defensive back for the Divas and was a member of the Divas’ inaugural team in 2001. By taking the reins of the Divas, Fischer became one of the few female head coaches in women’s football.

For the 2012 season, the Divas secured their ninth division title and made their ninth appearance in the postseason. However, after defeating the Pittsburgh Passion in their playoff opener, the Divas encountered the two-time defending national champion Boston Militia. The Militia eliminated the Divas from the postseason for the third consecutive year in a game marred by a bench-clearing brawl that led to substantial roster turnover for the Divas the following offseason.

A young D.C. Divas squad took the field for the 2013 season, and once again, the Divas established themselves as one of the top teams in the sport. The Divas participated in the highest-scoring game in women’s football history, lighting up the scoreboard in an 81-54 loss in Boston. The Divas claimed their tenth division championship in 2013, which tied the record for the most division championships in the history of women’s football. Unfortunately for the Divas, they again came up short in the playoffs against the Boston Militia for the fourth year in a row.

In 2014, the Divas claimed yet another division championship. They also qualified for the playoffs for the 11th time, setting a record for the most playoff appearances by a single team in women’s football history. Yet for the fifth straight season, the Divas once again could not overcome their rivals from Boston in the playoffs; the Divas were eliminated from the postseason after losing to the Boston Militia in the highest-scoring playoff game in women’s football history, 72-56. Boston went on to claim their third national championship in five years, and for the Divas, it marked the sixth time in franchise history that they were bounced from the playoffs by the eventual national champions.

Back-To-Back National Championships (2015-2016)

D.C. Divas 15th Anniversary LogoThe D.C. Divas celebrated their historic 15th anniversary with a season for the ages. The Divas went 8-0 in the regular season, the sixth undefeated regular season in franchise history and the Divas’ first since 2010. Included in those eight wins was a two-game sweep of their rivals from Boston, and the Divas became the first team to win in Boston in six years with a 32-27 road victory on May 2.

The Divas earned home field advantage throughout the WFA playoffs, and the Divas won their first conference title since 2009 with a hard-fought 43-27 victory over the Chicago Force. The Divas thus earned the right to play for the 2015 WFA national championship in Los Angeles against the Dallas Elite. After seizing an early lead, the Divas held off Dallas for a 30-26 victory and captured their second national championship in franchise history, finishing with a perfect 12-0 record on the year. 

As defending national champions in 2016, the D.C. Divas opened their year with a loss to the Dallas Elite, 40-19, in a rematch of the previous year’s national title game. But the Divas quickly rebounded, finishing with a 7-1 regular season record and clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Divas then defeated their archrivals, the Boston Renegades, by a 47-21 score to win the Eastern Conference championship and advance their fourth national title game in franchise history.

In the 2016 WFA national championship game, the Divas faced the undefeated Dallas Elite for the second straight year. The Divas were underdogs against a Dallas team that had handed them their only loss of the season, and the Divas fell behind by two scores early in the game. But the Divas rallied after a slow start, and they scored the game-winning touchdown with under three and a half minutes remaining to defeat the Dallas Elite in thrilling fashion, 28-26. The D.C. Divas became the first team in WFA history to back-to-back national championships, and the victory over Dallas allowed the Divas to surpass the New York Sharks for the most all-time wins in the history of women’s football.

The D.C. Divas have compiled a 120-36 record overall over 16 seasons. Their 120 victories currently make them the winningest team in the history of women’s football, despite the fact that the Divas continue to seek out and play the strongest and most powerful opponents in the sport. The Divas franchise refuses to back down from a challenge, preparing a schedule that has ranked as one of the toughest in women’s football for each of the last eight seasons. Despite their success, the D.C. Divas remain hungry for greatness, looking to innovate and set a standard for other women’s football teams to follow.

D.C. Divas Season-By-Season Summary
Season W L Division Finish
PS
PA
Playoff Finish
Final Ranking SoS
2001
3
4
3rd Northeast
97
95
6
2002
6
3
2nd Mid-Atlantic
250
31
9
2003
8
2
1st Mid-Atlantic
370
126
Made Conference Semifinal 4
2004
9
1
1st Mid-Atlantic
412
96
Made Conference Championship 4
2005
9
1
1st Northern
347
56
Made Conference Championship 3
2006
11
0
1st Mid-Atlantic
478
20
WON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 1
2007
8
1
1st Mid-Atlantic
390
67
Made Conference Semifinal 2 4
2008
4
4
4th North Atlantic
230
108
7 7
2009
10
1
1st Mid-Atlantic
397
105
WON CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP 1 2
2010
6
4
1st Southeast
299
185
Made Conference Championship 3 1
2011
7
2
1st Northeast
356
106
Made Conference Quarterfinal 2 1
2012
6
4
1st Division 3
361
249
Made Conference Semifinal 5 1
2013
6
4
1st Division 2
416
320
Made Conference Semifinal 4 2
2014
5
4
1st Mid-Atlantic
338
187
Made Conference Semifinal 3 2
2015
12
0
1st Mid-Atlantic
430
136
WON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 1 3
2016
10
1
1st East
482
226
WON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 1 2
16 Seasons
120
36
13 Division Titles
5653
2113
13 Playoff Appearances