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July 9, 2013

Women referees set to break NFL's glass ceiling

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

About 47 percent of the 108.4 million people who watched the 2013 Super Bowl were female, according to Nielsen data.

Thomas, who officiates college football in Irving, Texas- based Conference USA, worked an Indianapolis Colts minicamp last month. She'll call NFL preseason games in August.

"It's pretty quick," Thomas said in a telephone interview. "In those scrimmage games you sit back and think it's really not, but when you start digging into every responsibility at that position, you really do realize it's a lot faster."

She's already proven herself in the NCAA's top level, the Football Bowl Subdivision, said Gerald Austin, a former NFL referee who worked in three Super Bowls and is now coordinator of officials for Conference USA.

"Her judgment on calls has graded out very high," Austin said in a telephone interview. "Let the coaches coach the game, let the players play the game, but when there's a call that needs to be made then have the wherewithal and courage to step up and make the call. She's shown adeptness at knowing when you should pull the trigger."

The National Basketball Association has used female referees since 1997, when Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner were hired. Major League Baseball has never had a woman umpire.

Thomas, who has two boys, nine and 12, and a six-month-old girl, also works full-time in pharmaceutical sales for Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk.

She squeezes in time throughout the week to watch game film and talk to colleagues about situations and rules. Most NFL game officials are part-time, and they will make an average of $173,000 this season under their collective bargaining agreement.

"You just do it," she said, while expressing appreciation for help from her husband, Brian. "I have to tend to the kids, I have to do my job, and I have to get ready for football season. It's just what I have to do."

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