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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Could this woman become the NFL's first female official?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 2, 2008 at 6:31 PM

click to enlarge Sarah Thomas

This topic was sort of glanced over during yesterday's meeting with NFL officials (which this female official did not attend), but it is significant nonetheless. The woman above is Sarah Thomas and she's already made history as being the first woman to officiate a top-tier NCAA football game. The "lady official," as one media member said, turned a few heads at practice yesterday, and is sure to do the same today during the Saints intersquad scrimmage.

NFL referee Gene Steratore said that the NFL regularly brings in college coaches to help officiate training camp practices and that they're usually officials that come highly recommended and are being looked at by the league. He would not say whether or not Thomas is being considered for a position in the NFL.

"I know that she's very qualified and very good at what she does," he said.

Thomas was unavailable for comment after yesterday's practice — aside from the offseason and the one media breifing during training camp, college and NFL officials are not made available for comment —but a quick Google search revealed that the NFL was looking at her even before she officiated her first C-USA game:

"She came highly recommended by two NFL scouts," said Gerry Austin, a longtime NFL referee and the conference's coordinator of officials. "She has a good presence and demeanor. I feel like she has the ability and courage to make a call, and the guts to not make one, too."

Austin said there will be a lot of pressure on Thomas to succeed.

"I think it's like any other time you are the first one," Austin said. "If she does a good job, I think she will have a very positive effect. If she messes up, some people might say females aren't ready."

By all accounts, she did not "mess up" and went on to officiate other games as well. Thomas, who works as a pharmeceutical saleswoman during the week, has already broken a lot of barriers to get where she is today. She has a few more to overcome if she were to make it to the NFL, not the least of which being pseudo-sexist headlines.

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