On Saturday, Sept. 6, history will be made as Catherine "Cat" Conti will become the first female to officiate a Big 12 football game.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke highly of Conti during the official announcement. George Schroeder of USA Today provides Bowlsby's comments on the matter:
She is not there because she is a female. She is there because she's paid her dues and because she is a really outstanding football official. … This is a good opportunity for her and a good opportunity for us, and I don't think you'll really notice much about how the officiating is done on the game. But it's significant that she's doing it.
The matchup Conti is scheduled to officiate is a home game for Kansas against Southeast Missouri.
Conti has officiated football games for years, but has done so at the high school and smaller conference level. While she is scheduled to officiate the one contest for the Big 12, she will be full-time for the Mountain West this year, per Schroeder.
She has slowly moved her way up the ladder in the lower conferences to now officiating in the Big 12, but Conti still has other dreams of making it to the NFL. She spoke about those aspirations, via Schroeder's report:
"That's the ultimate dream," Conti said. "But if this Big 12 game is the highest I ever get, it's certainly been a great career. … I've never walked on a football field and felt I was over my head."
Schroeder also provided Kansas coach Charlie Weis' thoughts on Conti, via Twitter:
Weis later expanded on those thoughts (via Darren Hartwell of NESN.com):
“I believe in the old-fashioned way, so I’ll try not to use as many bad words,” Weis said. “But it means nothing to me. It’s great that a woman is put in a position where she can be put on equal footing with the men.”
Referee Magazine on Twitter shared its congratulations to Conti:
Regardless of what she does following the Big 12 game, Conti will make history by simply stepping on the field. With the signature black and white stripes, Conti will no doubt look to simply blend in with her fellow officials and do her job as usual despite the added attention that this historic situation will generate.
This is a huge move that follows another significant moment in sports and officiating after Sarah Thomas officiated the first Division I game back in 2007. As the Associated Press reported last month, Thomas might become the first NFL official this fall.
Whether or not Conti will join her is another story. But for now, she'll blaze her own trail on Sept. 6 in a Big 12 game.
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