National Football League hires Sarah Thomas as first female referee
(FOX SPORTS) NEW YORK – The NFL is hiring Sarah Thomas as its first female official, according to multiple media reports.
A source told the Los Angeles Times that the NFL informed current officials that seven men and one woman were selected as new hires for the 2015 season. All of them will have to pass physical exams first.
The news of Thomas’ hiring was first reported by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. The league hired the eight new officials because four from the 2014 season decided to retire. Four of the new hires will be considered “floaters” and not assigned to a specific crew.
The NFL has not officially confirmed the new hires and it is unknown if Thomas will be assigned to a permanent crew or not.
Being the first woman to officiate at different levels is not new for Thomas.
She worked for Conference USA in 2007 and in 2009 became the first woman to officiate a bowl game.
She has been in the NFL’s Officiating Development program and worked a preseason game last season.
“I set out to do this and get involved in officiating not having any idea that there were not any females officiating football,” Thomas told NFL Network in 2014. “Being a former basketball player, you saw female officiating all the time. So, no, I don’t feel like a pioneer.”
Thomas was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She played basketball in college at the University of Mobile. After school, she played on a men’s team in a church league.
Thomas began her refereeing career in 1999 at the high-school level. Gerald Austin invited Thomas to attend an officials’ camp, where he was impressed by her performance and Conference USA hired Thomas in 2007. In 2011, she was the first female referee to work in a Big Ten stadium.
A woman did work a game in 2012, when Shannon Eastin served as a replacement ref when the NFL locked out its officials.