Sarah Thomas Is The First Woman To Officiate At The Super Bowl

By: Melanie P
Posted: February 8, 2021


As I write this, it’s only matter of minutes before Sarah Thomas will be on the field in Tampa and the whole world will be watching. The woman who was once the first woman to ref in the NFL full-time is now the first female to officiate at a Super Bowl game.

Of course, Thomas herself is an athlete and played softball and basketball in high school and college, earning a basketball scholarship to the University of Mobile where she made quite a name for herself. After graduating in 1995 with a degree in Communications, Thomas looked for a way to remain a part of the sporting world and found herself officiating football, a game her brothers had played throughout high school. After making her way through elementary school football reffing and then high school, Thomas answered the phone one day to find Gerry Austin on the line, the man who was then the supervisor of Conference USA’s officials.

Austin asked her about her questions about her philosophy on officiating and how she would handle various situations that might arise during a game. He found that Thomas understood the rules as well as the spirit of the game, and that she had great communication skills, particularly with passionate coaches. After a few years of officiating, of putting in time studying during the offseason, Thomas got another important phone call in 2015. This time it was the NFL calling and she was about to make history once again.

When you think of the amount of work a man must have to put into making it this far in the world of football officiating, how much more must Sarah Thomas had to have done? A fellow official, a man, once said that “Her offseason study habits were equally if not better than ours were. She was committed to it… One thing she and I discussed is she didn’t want (her gender) to be an issue.

When Gerry Austin suggested that she tuck her blonde ponytail into her cap (which she does) and not wear makeup while officiating, Thomas had things to say. Although she didn’t agree with the makeup idea, she did understand why he brought it up. “You want to be known as an official – not as a female official – because that’s going to put you in a separate category. We don’t want anything that will enhance that. So when a coach looks at you, he sees an official.

Just the fact that she had to think about that at all speaks volumes. That quote was mentioned in an article from ESPN celebrating Thomas’ entry into the NFL. And now she’s officiating at the Super Bowl.

This has been a huge year for women in sports, from Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to act as a head coach in an NBA game to the Miami Marlins naming Kim Ng as their GM, to Sarah Fuller playing in a Power 5 football game. And now we’ve entered the realm of the Super Bowl.

The. Super. Bowl!

In the video above, Thomas speaks of how honoured she is to be a part of this game and to be someone that young girls look up to. But Sarah, it’s not just young girls who are looking up to, it’s all women, everywhere.

Especially me.


For more thoughts and opinions from Melanie, check out her author page.

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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