Score! Female Ref Officiates College Football - NBC Chicago

Score! Female Ref Officiates College Football

Sarah Thomas was first athlete in her high school to letter five times in single sport



    Score! Female Ref Officiates College Football
    Sarah Thomas

    Football is a man's sport. Men play it, men coach it and men referree it.

    So what the heck was Sarah Thomas doing in zebra stripes at the Northern Illinois University football game last Saturday. 

    Thomas, the first female to ref a college football, was doing the same thing she's done every football Saturday for the past three years: officiating college football.

    A self-proclaimed tomboy, Thomas was born and raised in Mississippi and was the first athlete at her high school to earn a letter five times in a sport.  She went on to play basketball for the University of Mobile on scholarship. After that she began working Mississippi high school football games for 11 years before she was discovered by a scout.

    Her first official game as a college ref came in 2007, in a matchup between Memphis and Jacksonville State. Since then, four other women have followed in her footsteps. But she said she's not in it for the recognition.

    "I do this because I love it.  I don't do things for recognition or to buck the system," she said.

    During the week, Thomas is your everyday working mother. She gets up at 6 a.m. to get her kids off to school and then heads to her job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. 

    But her weekend's are entirely different. That's when she becomes a keeper of gridiron rules. And she loves what she does.

    "I would rather be nowhere else but right here," Thomas said during the NIU game. "Unless I was at home with my kids, but this is what my job is, and I take full pride in being here."

    Thomas is very good at what she does, and she's even mentioned as a possible candidate to become the first female to officiate an NFL game.

    She just worked the New Orleans Saint's training camps, and it's rumored she's the first name to come up when the NFL discusses adding a female official. 

    "I think if she continues to develop the way she has the first three years, I think that's in her future," Austin said.

    And Thomas says she would welcome that day, if it comes.