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Home » News and Features » After Further Review » Why Wasn't Sarah Thomas Named a Full-Time NFL Official This Season?

Why Wasn't Sarah Thomas Named a Full-Time NFL Official This Season?

By: The Football Girl | Posted: May 22, 2014


As a female football fan and purveyor of advancement, I’m supposed to be thrilled with the news that Sarah Thomas and Maia Chaka are not only being placed in the NFL’s Officiating Development program for 2014 but also getting a shot at preseason games. On the surface, we should feel empowered by the ceiling getting cracked again and have faith that one, if not both of these women, are probable candidates for a full-time NFL officiating gig in the near future. Possibly in 2015.

But here’s the thing. Thomas was supposed to be called up this year. At least that’s what last summer’s “Sarah Thomas World Publicity Tour” would have led you to believe. If you don’t remember, simply google her name. The results speak for themselves. Thomas and Dean Blandino, the NFL Head of Officials appeared everywhere, from the NFL’s own network to Bloomberg to Thomas guesting on Piers Morgan. As part of the media parade, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman was reportedly told that Thomas was “nearly a lock” to start officiating NFL games this season.

Thomas was one of 21 in last year’s developmental class. Yesterday, 12 of the 21 were named first-year NFL officials for 2014.  She was not one of them.

While no one technically fibbed it’s hard not to feel a little duped. What possible incentive did Thomas or the NFL have to talk about her future if a permanent spot wasn’t around the corner? We’ve heard the story about how respected she is at the Conference USA level, how an NFL scout was impressed with her performance in a high-pressure playoff game and called well-respected official-turned-ESPN analyst Gerry Austin who became her mentor. Actually, we’ve been hearing the Sarah Thomas story for almost five years.

So why, after all of last summer’s hoopla, is she not a full-time official yet? Did Thomas muck something up between then and now? Did the NFL want to promote Thomas’s existence to combat the bad publicity they received from the new stadium bag policy, announced just weeks before the Thomas Tour took off? Or did all parties vaguely stick their necks out just because?

By all accounts, Thomas’s ability is there. So is the experience. As mentioned, Thomas was already in the league’s officiating development program last year. Thomas and fellow female officiating finalist Chaka will get to dabble in some preseason work in August, but this is also not fresh news. Thomas was the line judge in a Raiders-Saints preseason game last year. And c’mon, the preseason is exhibition football for a reason. It’s slower and mostly meaningless.

So while I am generally thrilled that Chaka, also a Conference USA official, was added to the list of finalists, it’s hard not to be disappointed overall in today’s news.

I thought we were getting a chocolate chip cookie and instead we got oatmeal raisin. Fine, better than no cookie, but very second-tier.

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