Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mississippi Woman Makes the Big Time!

Brandon Mississippi native Sarah Thomas just became the first woman to referee a college bowl game. (See ESPN story.) There are five other female referees in major college football, but Sarah Thomas was the first to draw a post season assignment. That might be because she has the most experience - she became the first woman to officiate at a major college game in 2007. She is also on the NFL's list of  officiating prospects - she's already worked the Saints training camps.

PREDICTION: Sarah Thomas will be the first female NFL official!

Sarah has always loved sports. She was the first athlete (not just female athlete) at Pascagoula High School to earn a letter five times in a sport - softball (first sport). She earned a basketball (second sport) scholarship to the University of Mobile, where she was an Academic All American. She accompanied her older brother to a meeting of football (third sport) referees on the Gulf Coast and decided that's what she wanted to do.

She started in youth leagues and studied and took tests and worked her way up through middle school, junior varsity, and finally high school. In the meantime, she gave birth to two boys. She said she worked the time clock when she was pregnant. In a New York Times article about her,
“The spouses of my crew made me a maternity referee shirt,” Sarah Thomas said, blushing. “Standing out there, big and in stripes has been the only time I’ve ever felt out of place.”
Just when she was about to give it up to work on her career (pharmaceutical sales rep), she was invited to a college officials camp, where she was immediately hired  - because of her excellent skills and performance.

After two years of training and being eased into the rotation, 2009 was her first year of officiating a full schedule of games. And the season was capped off with a bowl game.

Other officials and players have nothing but great things to say about her work. She has a bright and exciting future ahead of her. And she got her start in little ole Mississippi. Time for her to be added to the ads for Mississippi Believe It!

Check out this interview with her and see if you don't agree that she's terrific.

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