When the Women's Professional Football League made its debut in the fall of 1999, organizers billed it as A League of Their Own II. After 16 months, however, the WPFL seems a subject more fit for horror director Wes Craven.
Players on the WPFL's 11 teams endured a 2000 season of disorganized or canceled road trips, unpaid bills and equipment shortages. They never got the $100 a game they anticipated, and last month league organizers, citing a lack of funds, cut short the planned 10-game regular season and hurriedly arranged a tide game for Jan. 20 in Daytona Beach. "It started out roses," says Melanie DePamphilis, who played fullback for the New York Sharks. "But then we began hearing stories, and after a while we were wondering if there were even going to be games. No one was looking out for the players."
One club found itself locked out of its practice facility when the rent went unpaid. At a December game the Minnesota Vixens hired a security guard to keep concession receipts out of the hands of Terry Sullivan, a Vixens owner and league investor. Sullivan, who was in debt from previous fringe sports enterprises when he cofounded the WPFL, "isn't a bad person, but his judgment with money is questionable," says Jodi Armstrong, a Vixens fullback who also worked in the league office in Minneapolis. In late November, Larry Perry, who operated the Colorado franchise, agreed to purchase a majority share of the wobbly WPFL from Sullivan and his partners and infuse it with $1 million in capital. While that has some players talking about a brighter 2001, few are snapping their chin straps. "Who knows what the WPFL, if it is around, will look like next season?" Armstrong says.
Then there's Catherine Masters, a Nashville marketing consultant who this spring plans to unveil an eight-to 12-team National Women's Football League, to which some WPFL players, including DePamphilis, have already jumped. "The WPFL has pretty much self-destructed," says Masters. She says the NWFL has a book in the works (title: Just Give Us the Damn Ball). "We're talking to some people about a movie, too."