I'd like to send a hearty congratulations to Sarah Thomas, who yesterday afternoon became the first woman to referee in a college football bowl championship game. Thomas took the field as a line judge during the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Ohio and Marshall universities. I dare say, I couldn't have cared less about the game itself, but it was grand to see Thomas out there making her calls! And appropriately enough, one of the announcers for the national telecast was Pam Ward, who in 2000 became the first female sportscaster to call play-by-play for a college bowl game.
As I wrote back in March, the world of professional sports officiating has remained largely impervious to women. But in Thomas, who was the subject of a supportive New York Times profile earlier this fall, we might be witnessing the first legitimate female candidate for a refereeing position in the almighty National Football League. A mother to two young boys, Thomas, 36, became the first woman to ref in Division I in 2007. Today, she's the only woman officiating at the highest level of college football. Here she is in a recent interview:
Of course, the only frustrating thing about the news of Thomas's feat is that it highlights the fact that there's still a long way to go as far as allowing women officials to follow their dreams of making it to the pros. It's particularly disheartening for me, a serious baseball fan, to know that even in the über-macho NFL, a woman right now has a better chance of breaking the stained grass barrier to pro officiating than any current female umpire with her sights set on calling games in the MLB. Still, it's obviously a step in the right direction, and I wish Thomas nothing but the best! ∞