Michigan vs. Utah: Cat Conti Becomes 1st Female Official in Power 5 Game

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2015

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 06: Aerial view of the Pac-12 logo painted on the field before the game between the Stanford Cardinal and the Arizona Wildcats at Stanford Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Palo Alto, California. The Stanford Cardinal defeated the Arizona Wildcats 54-48 in overtime. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The start of the 2015 college football season on Thursday will also be a history-making night, with Cat Conti serving as an official during the Michigan vs. Utah game. 

According to Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel, citing colleague Mike Pereira, Conti will be the first female official to work a game featuring two teams from the Power Five conferences in college football.

Conti's star has been on the rise in the officiating ranks, though as she told Yahoo Sports' Graham Watson last year after she was assigned to a game between Southeast Missouri and Kansas in the Jayhawks' stadium, it didn't change much.

“Everyone saw the assignments, everyone saw I was assigned a Big 12 game,” Conti said. “It was a big deal, but it wasn’t.”

There has been a rise in the role women play in sports, as more opportunities are being made for them in roles traditionally filled by men. 

In April, the NFL made Sarah Thomas the first full-time female official after she spent eight years as an official in Conference USA.

Three months later, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter to be a training camp/preseason intern who worked with the inside linebackers. She is no longer with the team after her internship ended on Wednesday but did break ground as the NFL's first female coach.

In the NBA, Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs) and Nancy Lieberman (Sacramento Kings) have been hired as assistant coaches.  

These are small steps that will eventually lead to big, positive changes for everyone in sports. To echo Conti's statements, hopefully there will be a day when a female officiating games doesn't have to be a big deal because it's happening everywhere.   

Even though there is still a long way to go before women are getting the same opportunities as men in the sports realm, the work being done by Conti, Thomas, et al. is paving the way for future generations.

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