Passion move to rival league

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007

Thirty-seven days after winning its first championship, the Pittsburgh Passion women's football team has joined a new league and hired a new coach.

The Passion have joined the Independent Women's Football League after spending five years with the National Women's Football Association, the most recent as champion. The Passion defeated Columbus, 32-0, in the title game on July 21 in Nashville to cap a perfect season.

The IWFL, a Texas-based league founded in 2000, has 33 teams. Pittsburgh will begin play in 2008 in the Eastern Conference. Teams in that division include Detroit, Washington, D.C., New York, Boston and Chicago.

Passion owner Teresa Conn said the decision to switch leagues was a tough one but to be able to play against teams such as Detroit and D.C. Divas was attractive. Conn said fans will like the move which will bring more action-packed games against teams from bigger cities.

"There are already some healthy rivalries developing," Conn said. "Playing against teams from cities of our size will make for great competition. This was the best move at this time."

Pittsburgh's coach will be Jeff Ogden, who previously coached special teams. He is in the hospital recovering from a car accident. Ogden, who played in the NFL, replaces another former NFL player, Ron Coder.

"It took a lot of time, and with my job (as chaplain) at Pitt, it was hard to do both," said Coder, who plans to remain involved in some way. "I loved watching them gain confidence and develop as a team. I believe the Passion will do well in their new league and with a lot of the players, and if most of the coaching staff returns, the team should make a smooth transition."

Conn said the plan is to build on what Coder started in his first year as Passion coach.

"We know we overextended him with his job at Pitt," Conn said. "He was committed to growing women's football and was a big part in our championship."

Conn has faith in Ogden's leadership.

"Jeff is an incredible man," Conn said. "With everything he has gone through since the accident, he continues to care about everyone else. The entire team is behind him, and we will keep things together until he is healthy enough to return."

IWFL chief executive officer Laurie Frederick said Conn approached her about joining the league.

"We do a very extensive screening process," Frederick said. "Teresa is doing (such) a tremendous job of running the Passion that there were no second thoughts as to the Passion becoming a member. They will fit right in with the likes of teams like New York and Boston. The Passion have proven they are in this for the long term."

Note: The Passion are holding tryouts from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 8 at Marshall Middle School in Bradford Woods and from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Sept. 15 at North Allegheny High School, McCandless Township.

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