Korpacz is pioneer of women's football

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By CHRIS SHOTT Sports Editor
Melissa (Missi) Korpacz is aiming to become the Robert Kraft and/or Paul Tagliabue of women's professional football.
It's true. Korpacz, a Warwick native, is owner and general manager of the New England Storm of the Women's Professional Football League, a 10-team organization presently in its third season of competition and with franchises from coast to coast. As if she needs more to do, she is also executive director of the WPFL and a tireless promoter of the league.
“It started from a vision and now has taken on a life of its own,” Korpacz said yesterday about her association with women's football during a telephone interview from her Storm office in Medford, Mass. “Here in New England, we're at the forefront of the movement.”
While Korpacz is not yet in the same “league” as Kraft (owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots) or Tagliabue (commissioner of the National Football League), give her a few years and she may rival those heavyweights of men's professional football.
In her position with the Storm, Korpacz is essentially responsible for recruiting, evaluating and signing players and overseeing a growing administrative staff. In her capacity with the WPFL, she is heavily involved in organizational chores (especially promotions) and adheres to a simple philosophy.
“I basically make sure that the other owners in the league are doing what they should be doing,” Korpacz said.
Women's professional football? Don't laugh, because it was not that many years ago that many people sneered at the suggestions of women's professional basketball (prior to the creation of the Women's National Basketball Association) and women's professional soccer (before establishment of the Women's United Soccer Association). The WPFL has given women's football a foothold in this country and is quietly laying the foundation for a solid future.
This season, the WPFL is separated into two conferences – National and American. The Storm, Syracuse Sting, Indiana Speed (based in Indianapolis), Wisconsin Riveters (based in Kenosha) and Missouri Prowlers (based in Lebanon) comprise the National Conference, while the Houston Energy, Dallas Diamonds, Austin Rage, Arizona Knighthawks (based in Glendale) and Los Angeles Amazons make up the American Conference.
According to Korpacz, the WPFL is projecting expansion for its 2003 campaign and said that representatives of over 20 additional potential franchises have queried the league on its entrance requirements. Complete information about the league is available on its website at www.womensprofootball.com, and the Storm maintain a separate website at www.newenglandstorm.com.
Wherever this football odyssey takes her in the future, Korpacz remains well grounded in Warwick and Rhode Island. A 1988 graduate of Toll Gate High School (where she played softball, not football), she later earned an associate's degree from the Community College of Rhode Island and a bachelor's degree from Rhode Island College in Providence.
Korpacz also earned a law degree from Suffolk University in Boston and after a brief stint with a local law firm as an educational advocate, she switched gears to the Storm.
“I've been a football fan all my life and I remember playing games many times at Winslow Park,” Korpacz said. “Whenever someone has told me that I can't do something, it makes me want to do it even more.”
Korpacz launched her WPFL career in January 2000 when she contacted the league office about attending a tryout session for players. Instead, she was encouraged to establish a franchise in New England and thus the Storm was born.
“I was at Chili's Grill & Bar in Providence with three of my friends and we were playing a game of word association,” Korpacz said. “It began to rain outside and the name ‘Storm' stuck with me.”
The Storm was based in Providence during the league's inaugural season of 2000, but moved to the Boston area prior to the start of the following campaign. Regardless, Korpacz said that many members of her close-knit family (including several from Warwick) regularly help out at Storm home games.
WPFL clubs carry rosters of 45 players hailing from all points in the United States as well as abroad. The Storm's roster, for example, lists players from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas and California along with Germany.
The WPFL's future will be indelibly enhanced if its ongoing efforts to align with the NFL are successful (in much the same way as National Basketball Association entries have similarly supported the WNBA). The Storm has already forged a working relationship with the Patriots, and Korpacz said that she is optimistic that the rest of the WPFL will soon follow suit.
“I think it's just a matter of time before the NFL picks us up,” she said. “Ideally, I expect it to happen within the next three years.”
As with all new sports leagues, progress is measured in small steps in the WPFL, but spectator attendance is respectable. According to Korpacz, the Storm regularly average 1,500 to 1,800 at its home games at Hormel Stadium in Medford.
New England lost its first two starts of the 2002 season (32-0 to Syracuse and 6-3 to Dallas last Saturday night and will host Indiana this coming Saturday night at 7. Prior to returning to business affairs yesterday, Korpacz said that the Storm would offer a special ticket discount to Ocean State residents to that contest.
“Anyone presenting a Rhode Island identification will get one-half off the price of any ticket to Saturday's game,” she said.
Let's see Bob Kraft and Paul Tagliabue match that promotion.

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