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Mississippi College

Football Referee Sarah Thomas Helps Raise $160,000 for Mississippi College Athletics

October 31, 2013

Football referee Sarah Thomas is a strong candidate to break the glass ceiling as the first woman official to work NFL games next season.

A Brandon resident, Thomas also proved to be an effective communicator as she headlined Mississippi College’s 12th annual athletics dinner Tuesday evening. The October 29 event raised more than $160,000 for MC athletic programs.

Whether it was chatting with visitors at a reception at Alumni Hall or addressing 650 guests at the dinner at Anderson Hall, Thomas delighted many admirers on the Clinton campus.

“She has such poise and intelligence – she’s a young lady who loves the game of football,” says Jan Cossitt, program director at the Baptist Healthplex and Clinton’s Ward 5 alderwoman. “I hope she gets the call.”

Chances look good that the Pascagoula native will get the opportunity to serve as a full-time official during NFL games in 2014. A Conference USA football referee and the first woman official at a college bowl game in 2009, Thomas is among 21 finalists for that honor. The NFL has never employed a full-time female referee since the league’s inaugural season in 1920.

The job pays about $280,000.

If the NFL knocks on her door, Thomas told the audience she’s definitely going to accept the offer.

“People who know who I am, understand this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Thomas said in an August 2013 story in the “Bleacher Report” focusing on the Mississippian’s rising stock as a potential NFL referee. “They know how serious I am.”

President Lee Royce, his wife Rhoda, Athletics Director Mike Jones, former Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, and trustee Andy Taggart led the Christian university’s delegation applauding her visit to the Clinton campus. Retired Mississippi High School Activities Association Executive Director Ennis Proctor, an MC alumnus, joined the welcoming party.

A member of Pinelake Church in Brandon, Thomas is involved in the Upward Bound basketball ministry. At the 12th annual Billy Joe Cross Athletics Dinner, Thomas spoke about her relationship with Jesus Christ and what impact that has on her endeavors on and off the field. Sarah and her husband, Brian, are the parents of three children.

Guests walked away from the banquet impressed with her accomplishments as a football pioneer and predict much success ahead for the 40-year-old Rankin County resident.

“She’s an excellent role model, whether you are male or female,” Cossitt said.

During the dinner, MC Lady Choctaws volleyball player Nicole Horton of Rye, Colorado, and men’s soccer player Emerson Negrete of Santa Ana, California discussed their faith and how it has helped them as student-athletes on the Clinton campus.

The annual athletics dinner has helped Mississippi College raise more than $1 million over the past 11 years.

Mississippi College is taking steps to return to NCAA Division II ranks and the Gulf South Conference next fall against old rivals like Delta State, West Alabama, North Alabama and Valdosta State. With more than 5,000 students, the Baptist-affiliated university is presently an NCAA Division III member in the Texas-based American Southwest Conference.

For more information on Mississippi College athletics, contact the university’s sports information director David Nichols at 601.925.3234 or Nichols@mc.edu.

Photo: Mississippi College trustee Don Phillips of Brandon joins Conference USA football official Sarah Thomas, who headlined Tuesday evening's MC athletics dinner. A Brandon resident and member of Pinelake Church, Thomas seeks to become the first female football referee in the NFL during the 2014 season.