Sarah Thomas is an American football official. Currently an official for the National Football League (NFL), she's noted for being a pioneer in female officiating. Thomas was the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first to officiate a bowl game, and the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. In 2015, Thomas will become the first full-time female official in NFL history.
Thomas was born in 1973 in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She attended Pascagoula High School, where she lettered five times in softball. She attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship and was an academic all-American.
Thomas began her officiating career in 1996, when she attended a meeting of the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. She worked her first varsity high school game in 1999.
In 2006, Gerry Austin, Conference USA's coordinator of officials and a former NFL official, invited her to an officials' camp. Austin was impressed with her skills and hired her for the Conference USA staff. In 2007, Thomas became the first woman to officiate a major college football game, working a game between Memphis and Jacksonville State. Before that game, Austin said, "She came highly recommended by two NFL scouts. 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."
During the 2009 season, Thomas was one of five female officials in major college football and the only one at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. She was assigned to a crew and given a full schedule of 11 games. At the end of the season, she was selected to work the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Marshall and Ohio, making her the first woman to officiate a bowl game. Regarding her presence, Marshall running back and game MVP Martin Ward said "I noticed her before the game, but that was it. Once the game started, she was just doing the job that the line judge does in every game we play. It didn't matter that she was a woman at all."
On November 12, 2011, Thomas became the first woman to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, working as a line judge when Northwestern hosted Rice. Thomas has officiated United Football League games, and in 2010 worked the league championship game. In 2013, Thomas became one of 21 finalists in contention for a permanent NFL officiating position.
Thomas has worked New Orleans Saints scrimmages, and was part of the NFL officiating development program, spending three days at the Indianapolis Colts minicamp. On April 8, 2015, the NFL officially announced that Thomas will become the first full-time female official in NFL history. [+]
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