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College Football's Only Female Ref

Who says football is only for men? At 35 years old Sarah Thomas is not only an attractive mother of two young boys; she is also the only female referee in major college football. Born in Mississippi and based in New Orleans, Thomas has always loved sports and worked her way from a youth league line judge in 1996 to a college ref known for her ability to make accurate calls in high-pressure situations. Thomas, who refereed in a maternity shirt when she was pregnant, considered leaving football in 2006, until she was courted to officiate college games by former NFL official and Conference USA coordinator Gerald Austin. “She made one tough call after another and nailed every one of them,” Austin said. Thomas, who folds her long blond hair under her referee’s hat, says players often don’t realize she’s a woman until they hear her voice. Since Thomas began officiating on the college level, the Southwestern Athletic Conference gained its first female official and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference added three women to its roster. Will she conquer the NFL next? Austin says Thomas is so good her name is tossed around as a likely contender when the pros add a female official.