When Jacksonville State and Memphis kicked off Saturday night, line judge S.B. Thomas didn’t stand out.
Stationed at the goal line, average height, white pants, vertical black and white striped shirt with a white “L” in a black box on the back.
But S.B. ‘Sarah’ Thomas’ appearance marked the first time a female official has worked a game in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly I-A. Thomas, a veteran Mississippi high school official, was assigned to the game by Conference USA. Most experts and C-USA officials cannot recall another woman calling a major college game.
In 2002, Annice Canady became the first woman ever to officiate a lower-tier Championship Subdivision football game.
Thomas of Walnut Grove, Miss. was not available for comment in the week before Saturday’s game. The conference has a policy prohibiting officials from talking to the media.
Other than an occasional photographer subtly taking a picture, there was little fanfare.
In 2001, Jacksonville State’s Ashley Martin became the first woman to play and score in Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA, football, kicking three extra points in the Gamecocks’ 72-10 win over Cumberland.
– Associated Press
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