Sarah Thomas Shatters Another Glass Ceiling

Lori Matta-RhodeCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2009

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  The Coca-Cola League Two match between AFC Bournemouth and Notts County was called off due to a frozen pitch at the Fitness First Stadium, on December 21, 2009 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Move over, boys. Here we come ... again.

Sarah Thomas made history Saturday night at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl by becoming the first woman to officiate a bowl game when she worked the matchup between Ohio and Marshall. 

Thomas is one of five women officiating in major college football, the first and only female referee in Conference USA. Pizza Bowl spokesman Tim Moore said she was the first woman to draw an assignment for a Bowl Subdivision postseason game.

"It was an honor," Thomas told the Associated Press while running off the field with her colleagues after Marshall's 21-17 victory in Detroit.

OK, you male naysayers, I know what you're thinking: We've got women in the booth and women as sideline reporters, now women calling the plays? What does a chick know about officiating football, anyway?

Thomas may have never played a down, but she knows plenty. She's completing her third year as a Division I official, and she has 13 years of experience calling football games.

In an interview posted on DailyMotion in August, Thomas said she became involved in officiating when her older brother began attending referee training sessions.

"Can girls do that?" She asked him.

He wasn't sure, but she met up with him at an officials meeting he was attending. She kept attending meetings and participated in on-field clinics before her first season on the field.

She was barely noticed Saturday, when as line judge she was positioned in front of the Thundering Herd bench. In fact, most wouldn't be able to tell she's a woman, as she tucks her shoulder-length blond hair underneath her cap when she officiates.

"I noticed her before the game, but that was it," said Marshall running back Martin Ward, the game's MVP. "Once the game started, she was just doing the job that the line judge does in every game we play. It didn't matter that she was a woman at all."

The way I see it, allowing women to officiate is a win-win situation for everyone. For us girls, Thomas and others like her serve as an inspiration. We can be just as involved and just a big a factor in football as the guys are.

And for the guys, well ... this could go a long way in bringing some peace to the battle of the sexes. Can coaches and players really scream at a female referee the same way they do with the guys?

Well, maybe they can, but hopefully they'll be a bit gentler. If they're not, then anyone who uses the "B" word should automatically be ejected from the game. Hey, I'm all for equality, but that's crossing the line.

For Thomas, a pharmaceutical sales rep and married mother of two boys, it's not just about being the only lady on the field.

"This is something bigger than being the first female," Thomas said. "It's a profession we take a lot of pride in ... preparing for the season. We just want to go out there and manage our responsibilities and let the kids play the game."

Isn't that what it should be about for referees, no matter what their gender?