In a groundbreaking move, the NFL is hiring Sarah Thomas as its first female permanent official for regular-season games, according to sources.
A former official for Conference USA football games, Thomas joins the NFL as along with seven other officials for next season.
The Mississippi native has previously officiated NFL preseason games, working as a line judge. Thomas was one of 21 finalists for a permanent officiating job two years ago.
“She has the right temperament and attitude and feel for the game,” an officiating source told The Baltimore Sun. “She knows the rules and understands how to apply them in the spirit of the rules. That sets her apart, male or female.”
The NFL didn’t confirm Thomas’ hire with an official announcement expected as soon as next week
“The 2015 roster of officials has not yet been finalized,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in an email. “When it is, the new officials for 2015 and the entire roster will be announced.”
In 2012, the NFL hired Shannon Eastin during an officiating lockout as their first female official and she worked one game between the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams. She wasn’t a permanent hire, though.
Thomas has experience working the New Orleans Saints’ practices and an Indianapolis Colts minicamp as part of the NFL officiating development program. She also officiated the United Football League championship game in 2010
A resident of Brandon, Miss., who’s married with three children, Thomas works as a pharmaceutical sales representative. She attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship.
Thomas has worked college games, including becoming the first woman to officiate a bowl game when she was picked for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Marshall and Ohio.