The Big XII conference, one of college football’s five major leagues, will for the first time open its fields to a female official during the 2014 season.
Catherine “Cat” Conti will officiate a non-conference game between Kansas and Southeast Missouri State on September 6, Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced Monday, according to USA Today’s George Schroeder and other reporters on the scene:
Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby announces Catherine “Cat” Conti will work the SE Missouri-Kansas game. “A good opportunity for her and for us."
— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) July 21, 2014
Bowlsby described Conti as a “darn good official” and said that having the league’s first woman official would be a “good opportunity for her and for us,” according to reports. Sarah Thomas, a Conference USA official, became the first woman to work a major college football game in 2007.
Conti has previously officiated occasional Division I games for the Southland Conference and will be on the conference’s full-time roster, according to FoxSports.com. Along with Thomas, Conti is one of two women officials on Division I conference rosters. College football made history with women officials last year on multiple occasions — four women officiated in a single game between Division II colleges, the first time any game featured a majority-female crew, and two women worked together in the Fight Hunger Bowl, the first time two women served on the same crew in a Division I game.
The NFL is also moving toward having its first full-time female official. Shannon Eastin was the first to ref an NFL game during the preseason in 2012, when the NFL locked out its officials. Thomas, the Conference USA official, is on track to become the league’s first full-time official through its development academy.